Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

Good News, Bad News for Recent Law Grads

For recent law graduates, there’s good news and bad news.

The good news: the national median salary for the class of 2020 reached an all-time high of $75,000, up more than three percent from the prior year. The median salary for 2020 grads who took jobs in law firms was $130,000.

The bad news: the employment rate for new lawyers dropped by nearly two percentage points.

That’s according to the National Association for Law Placement (NALP), which says salary numbers are finally approaching those prior to the 2008-2009 recession after more than a decade of stagnant or declining pay for new grads.

Read a press release from the National Association for Law Placement here.

Read an ABA Journal article here. 

Keep reading for some of the key takeaways from the NALP survey.

Lawyers Mutual can help you navigate the new normal. Our email newsletter “Practice Reimagined” offers timely tips, pointers and valuable links on wellness, work-life balance and quality of life – delivered straight to your in-box. Lawyers helping lawyers. It’s what we’ve been doing more than 40 years.


National Association of Law Placement: New Law Grad Pay

Here are some excerpts from the NALP report:

  • Despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, employment and salary outcomes remained strong for the Class of 2020.
  • The overall employment rate for the Class of 2020 fell by nearly two percentage points, to 88.4 percent of graduates for whom employment status was known, compared with 90.3 percent for the Class of 2019.
  • The percentage of graduates taking jobs for which bar passage is required or anticipated declined by 1.6 percentage points, from 76.2 percent in 2019 to 74.6 percent in 2020; however, the figure remains above the rates observed in the prior ten class years through 2018.
  • Close to 57 percent of employed graduates got jobs in private practice, an increase of 1.6 percentage points and the highest percentage since 2003.
  • The national median salary for the Class of 2020 grew to an all-time high of $75,000, up 3.4 percent compared to the Class of 2019.
  • The national median law firm salary for the Class of 2020 was $130,000, up 4 percent and reaching the high-water mark set by the Class of 2009.
  • The share of law firm jobs in the smallest firms (1-10 lawyers) and the largest firms (more than 500 lawyers) both rose. The percentage of jobs in the former category grew to 32.8 percent of all law firm jobs, while the latter category jumped to 30 percent.
  • Public service jobs, including military and other government jobs, judicial clerkships, and public interest positions, accounted for 31 percent of jobs, down one percentage point from 2019. Public interest organizations, including public defenders, accounted for 8.7 percent of those jobs, up from 8 percent in 2019.
  • Of employed graduates from the Class of 2020, 11.5 percent were looking for a different job, about the same as the prior year.
  • The largest law firms have added more than 2,200 jobs over the past nine years. 

Sources: National Association of Law Placement and ABA Journal


Have you checked out Lawyers Mutual Consulting & Services? Founded by Camille Stell, who also serves as president, LMCS is a subsidiary of Lawyers Mutual. Its mission is to help firms build a modern law practice. It does that by offering expert advice and assistance into law firm trends and best practices. Camille and LMCS helps lawyers and firms create strategic plans and succession plans. A popular speaker and writer, Camille loves to guide lawyers through succession planning and into Life after Law. Contact her today.


About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

Read More by Jay >

Related Posts