Entry-level corporate lawyers now can make $200K or more

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Pay for first year corporate attorneys has skyrocketed, with some firms now paying young graduates more than $200,000 starting salaries. 

New York-based corporate law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, which has 975 attorneys, upped pay on Friday for 2021 law school graduates to $202,500, the Wall Street Journal reported. Another New York law firm, 765-attorney Milbank LLP, reportedly raised first-year pay to $200,000 last week. 

Other firms that jacked-up pay in the past week include Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP; Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo PC; and Proskauer Rose LLP, according to the Journal, which also reported firms paid-out bonuses throughout the pandemic. 

A recent survey from the National Association for Law Placement found that the median first-year corporate lawyer at a firm with more than 700 employees made $190,000 per year at the beginning of 2021 — an increase of more than 20 percent from 2017 even without taking the most recent raises into account.

For all corporate law firms, the median first-year salary was $165,000 — a $10,000 increase from 2019, the last year the survey was conducted. 

Attorneys in large markets like New York and Los Angeles raked-in the highest pay, while lawyers in other markets took in less. The lowest first-year salaries were in the southwest, where entry-level lawyers were paid $130,000 according to the survey. 

Nearly two-thirds of law offices reduced employees’ pay in 2020 as the pandemic squeezed the economy, but pay surged upward again by the end of the year, according to the survey.

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