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The Shark

« linx | Main | share the wealth of law school outlines on the web »

January 30, 2008


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The problem with reporting mean averages of legal starting salaries is the distortion created by the incredibly high - but very rare - jobs at the top of the scale. The median average would be a much more indicative number, as that would let us know what the average recent grad was actually making, not what a student without any idea of where they will fall on the scale of salary outcomes might average out their expectation value. Most law students can expect to make less (often significantly less) than their schools mean average, because the median is usually significantly lower than the mean due to this distortion at the top.

See this graph from the NALP ( to get a better idea of what I mean. Legal starting salaries tend to bunch into two categories: a substantial minority making 130-160 K a year, with the majority at less than 62K, and with most of those salaries in the 35-50K a year range.

This is less applicable at the top tier schools, where most students that go into private practice do so at the high salaries. The methodology for the above schools obviously is the self-reported "average" from the schools. Schools at the top of the report like to report the median average (which is why it is a nice, even 125K) because most of their grads wind up at large firms. Schools with lower rankings often report mean averages to take advantage of the distortion (which in this case is all those schools with the seeminly random averages, like Loyola's $86,451k). As I am sure L2L could tell you, very few Loyola grads start at 86K or more, but the few that do are up around 160K and thus are pulling the mean average way up.

Justin Gosling

Abony, Dave... You're totally killing my 160K buzz right now.

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