While going over the new employment and salary figures posted by Chicago and Ohio State I had one of those insights about something which seems incredibly obvious once one has noticed it, which makes it all the more vexing that I hadn't noticed it previously. (Update: I should emphasize that these stats, while still featuring significant gaps, are a big improvement over what most law schools provide).
It's this: a huge percentage of recent law graduates who are being surveyed regarding their salaries don't actually have salaries.
A salary is the whole sum someone is paid in return for work performed. A key mark of professional status is that one is paid a salary, rather than hourly, or by piece rate. (The category is over-inclusive in that some non-professional workers receive salaries, but the key point is that "real" professional positions feature salaries rather than hourly compensation. This distinction has various legal consequences, most notably that salaried employees don't have to paid overtime).
Because lawyers are professionals, they have salaries. That's why NALP, the ABA, and USNWR ask for salary information, and publish mean and median salary ranges for attorneys nine months after graduation. Except, increasingly, lawyers don't have salaries. Very large numbers of new lawyers (and indeed a vast and growing army of veteran attorneys) are paid by the hour, working temporary contracts as law clerks, document reviewers, and other positions that do not feature, among many other things, a salary.
Once one has realized this it helps explain the otherwise somewhat puzzling fact that such a large proportion of recent law grads are sufficiently compliant in regard to their alma mater's requests for information that they're willing to respond to employment surveys, but nevertheless apparently aren't willing to disclose their salaries. For instance Ohio State determined the employment status nine months after graduation of 100% of its 2010 class, but has salary information for just 45% of the class, or 51% of employed graduates. Of course some people with salaries will refuse to disclose them, but the most obvious explanation for why so many recent law graduates refuse to disclose their salaries is that they don't have salaries.
Conversely, as a commenter suggests, some non-salaried grads will multiply their hourly wage by 2000 and report an annual "salary," especially given that the current reporting system doesn't distinguish between salaried and non-salaried work for the purpose of reporting compensation. It would be a good thing if every law school were required to report what percentage of its most recent graduating class it had been able to determine held positions as salaried attorneys. Non-salaried and non-attorney positions would be excluded explicitly from the questions designed to elicit this percentage. (Among other things such a requirement would spur career services offices to find as much information as possible about their graduates. Of course this incentive would make it all the more imperative to audit the reported percentages).
Consider OSU's salary information, which according to their career placement office "is self-reported by graduates." Fourteen 2010 OSU graduates obtained jobs with firms of more than 500 attorneys, and apparently all 14 reported their salaries. (Note: DJM suggests that career service offices attribute salaries to graduates who don't actually report them but are working at firms where the starting salaries for associates are quasi-public information, so perhaps the placement's office's representation that their salary information is based on self-reporting shouldn't be taken literally). Meanwhile, only six of 23 graduates working for firms of 2-10 attorneys reported their salaries. A plausible explanation for this enormous variance in reporting rates is that in a large proportion of these cases these graduates are law clerks or contract attorneys, being paid by the hour. In other words, they don't have salaries to report.
And although in the case of Chicago we're looking at a very small cohort, it's striking that the school doesn't have "salary" information for about the same number of its graduates who report working for firms of ten lawyers or less. Consider that for the class of 2009 NALP has salary data for slightly more than a third of graduates working for firms of that size, which suggests strongly that large numbers of recent graduates working for small firms simply don't have salaries to report.
Indeed legal employers of all types, faced with a sea of desperate recent and not-so-recent law graduates, are increasingly willing to fill positions that formerly would have been filled by, on the one hand, law students, or, on the other, salaried attorneys, with a new class of non-salaried hourly workers who have law degrees. The former positions are law clerk jobs, that traditionally haven't required those who fill them to be admitted to the bar, while the latter are jobs that used to be filled by salaried lawyers but can now be filled by people who, because they can be paid relatively low hourly wages and do not need to be provided benefits, are much cheaper to hire than salaried attorneys. (There is an even more dire subcategory of recent graduates who are working literally for free. The US Attorney's office in Denver recently advertised a year-long position for a new law graduate, with a "salary" of zero).
In other words, in addition to all the other problems that plague the fight for transparency regarding employment and "salary" data, the language we continue to use out of habit is increasingly out of date. If you ask people who don't have salaries about their salaries, it's not surprising that you will end up with a poor response rate.
Monday, December 19, 2011
Why new law grads don't report their salaries
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That's an interesting idea, and it may be right. But if we assume that shame and emotion enter into this-- if we accept that a category of people aren't reporting their salaries because they are so low-- wouldn't some of these people simply multiply their hourly rates over the time they work and come up with their "salary"? I wonder if people who work on an hourly basis are making a hard and fast distinction between salary and wages.ReplyDelete
Interesting. Can't wait to read this later when I get a break.ReplyDelete
A friend was pushed out of Big-law after two years. Prior to that, I had always looked to him as someone who 'won' the game. He worked as an unpaid clerk for a judge for almost a year. However, he didn't tell anyone, girlfriend, family, not a close friends, that his salary was zero. Then took a much lower paying job.ReplyDelete
Shame is a big deal.
In re multiplication: if you make 10$ an hour picking oranges, do you make $10x40x52= $20800 a year? Likely not. Temporary work is, by definition, not predictable. So are many low paying hourly jobs.
I've linked to this presentation several times, but it just has a lot of information relevant to the thrust of this blog. From Jay Leipold, Executive Director of NALP:ReplyDelete
"While this effort is incredibly important, it is one that ultimately takes away from the time that these professionals could be counseling current students, recent graduates, and increasingly, alums returning to seek career change advice. It also creates a difficult and often antagonistic relationship with recent graduates who may be angry or bitter about their employment prospects, or who feel that the school is not entitled to have what they consider to be personal information, particularly as to salary. I say this to you as a law school graduate who in 1993 refused to provide my law school with my completed employment survey. Schools work hard to balance the need to gather this information with the need to preserve warm relations with their recent alums and future donors."
I have returned to the government job I held before law school, where I am making significantly more than when I left (for reasons that have nothing to do with me or possessing a JD, before anyone asks). That salary is well above the reported median starting salary for my school, but even further above what I could have reasonably expected to make as a lawyer in my area or anywhere else. Because I know that my school is not making any effort to differentiate my outcome from people who are using or trying to use their JDs, I will not be reporting my salary or position to buttress a misleading median starting salary.
This hypothesis might indeed explain the low salary reporting rate. I know that if I was making $12/hour working at a small firm, I could very comfortably check the "working at a law firm" box. I could check the "full time" box. I could check the "2-10 associates" box. But when I saw salary I wouldn't know what to put in there, so I might just skip over it because I don't want to lie.ReplyDelete
Interesting John. But to be fair, people not reporting salaries because they don't want their law school to take credit for their high salary are probably rare. (But what if they're not? What if all those non-salary reporters are super rich?)ReplyDelete
John, does your school ask if your working a position that does not require a JD? I hope so, so at least they can tell how many people are working jobs that require the degree they paid all this money for.ReplyDelete
I have no reason to believe that my situation is common. I just wanted to show that anger at one's prospects in the law was a reason for me and the Executive Director of NALP not to give them any information that might help them or embarrass us or both.
I wonder what the head of the NALP makes each year.ReplyDelete
"(There is an even more dire subcategory of recent graduates who are working literally for free. The US Attorney's office in Denver recently advertised a year-long position for a new law graduate, with a "salary" of zero)"ReplyDelete
This may be new for the US Attorney's office, but the Colorado Attorney General has had unpaid attorney positions for years. A friend of mine worked at the employment division of the Attorney General for a long time, and then the salary was changed from zero to "50%" of the state-approved level.
"Note: DJM suggests that career service offices attribute salaries to graduates who don't actually report them but are working at firms where the starting salaries for associates are quasi-public information, so perhaps the placement's office's representation that their salary information is based on self-reporting shouldn't be taken literally."ReplyDelete
This is entirely correct. This practice helps boost the median salary number since it's generally high-paying law firms that provide "quasi-public" starting salary info via the NALP Directory of Legal Employers.
Grads who refuse to report their employment data are a problem. They don't realize that their failure to report allows the schools to submit data on their behalf, often after making generous assumptions about their employment status and salary.
Even the US Attorneys office, one of the most prestigious federal attorney positions in existence, won't pay a salary now?! Jesus.ReplyDelete
Oh, so you have a job, but now you want a SALARY too!?ReplyDelete
Wow, what a bunch of entitled, whining brats. You should be grateful just to have a climate controlled environment to spend 8-10 hours a day.
I think people don't report their salary because sometimes its painful to put it into writing. If you're working a temp job, going on interviews, networking, meeting with people, you can convince yourself that things are looking up, that you'll be alright. So you've got to pay some dues for a bit- no big deal. You'll find a real position soon. But when you get that survey from your school, it smacks you in the face. You are not doing ok. So instead of reporting your info back to the school, you toss it in the garbage.ReplyDelete
Do people really engage in that sort of preposterous self-deception, though? Maybe they should've given a clinical on that in school, seems like a skill I could put to some immediate use.ReplyDelete
Interesting post, though, LawProf. It's one of those things that seems obvious once you say it out loud. Even if nothing untoward were occurring (e.g., throwing out $x/hr responses as non-salaries; also, yeah right) it does suggest it.
...and the number of lawyers without salaries to report continues to grow. Thank you for highlighting this aspect of the law business. The number of lawyers without salaries to report is a part of the reason why all income data reported alleging lawyer median and mean income at all stages of lawyers' working lives is suspect and not reflective of what most lawyers know to be true.ReplyDelete
I applaud the New York Times once again for yet another story (12/17/11) on an aspect of the law school scam:
as well as one commentator's thoughts on that story:
"Do people really engage in that sort of preposterous self-deception, though?"ReplyDelete
Well said. I mean, it's not like you can hide from your salary. It stares you in the face and you are reminded of it dozens of times each day.
Speaking of which Mikoyan and others, has anyone here engaged in fantasy to tolerate their lives? I mean, whose to say I'm not an employed lawyer making money and having a career? What, just because I don't go into an office and have a boss and collect a paycheck? Who defines what it means to have a job and salary? I declare myself as having one. A prestigious attorney position at a top firm. From now on, whenever anyone asks me what I do that's what I'm going to say.ReplyDelete
. . . Gives me an idea for my resume.
9:33 here, and I'm looking to hire a few new associates for my prestigious practice. I only want students from the top 20 schools, and then only those in the top 20%. 20/20s I call them. Apply by posting your resume here.ReplyDelete
Even more shocking employment news: Colorado Law has only eight employed graduates! I searched the school's site high and low, and the only data I can find about job outcomes is a nice page of puffy profiles for those eight alumni. And it seems that only half of those jobs require a JD. Not clear if those folks have salaries or not.ReplyDelete
And the problems aren't limited to schools outside T14. At NYU, 95% of the class of 2010 secured their first or second choice of jobs but, curiously, none of them seem to have been paid. They were paid as summer associates (an ingenious way to lure in 0Ls with "salary" data) but apparently not after graduation. Wow--the NYU education seems to have led to declining marketability.
And I'm very sad to report that 18% of Yale's 2010 grads are also working without salaries. Of course, in their case, they may live by mental sustenance alone.
But as a Buckeye, I'm happy to note that our grads are at least holding their own in the Big 10. At Indiana-Bloomington, only 28.8% of their employed grads are actually earning a salary! And be forewarned, you are going to have to search for that number: Indiana has a cool bar graph comparing their grads' salaries to those reported nationally by NALP. But to find the percentages who actually have salaries, you need to click through to see the "detailed charts and tables" and then read a miniscule footnote to one of the tables. 42.9% of 2010 grads nationwide report a salary, but just 28.8% of Indiana grads do. Holy Hoosiers, Indiana, we beat you at football 34-20 and on salaried law grads 51-29. (Maybe this offers a clue to the fortunes of a school's law grads?)
DJM, LST claims Colorado's salary reporting rate is about 30%, although I don't know where LST gets this information.ReplyDelete
Wow NYU's statistics are really sparse.ReplyDelete
Can someone nominate LawProf for ATL's Lawyer of the Year?ReplyDelete
DJM, I should perhaps be clearer in the OP about the fact that, despite the major gaps in its data, OSU is still way ahead of most law schools (including CU) in revealing employment and compensation data.ReplyDelete
In the case of a school like NYU I assume this is just negligence and laziness since to superficial examination their placement record probably looks excellent (like Chicago's). Of course those stats will look a lot different in five years, when the vast majority of the grads going to big firms will no longer be in their original jobs.
I wouldn't be so sure that NYU's huge 500 person class places as well as Chicago's 200 person class. Chicago provides much greater resources, per capita, to their students than does NYU. For example, look at the teacher-student ratios at the two schools.ReplyDelete
Can you post the link to the US Attorney's one year zero salary job offer for recent licensed graduates? That's literally the highest attorney office in the nation, and if they're not paying anything then we have problems.ReplyDelete
Was this not the Federal US Attorney's Office?
11:28: Link added to OPReplyDelete
Wow, look at the requirements:ReplyDelete
* You must be a U.S. Citizen or National.
* Background investigation and credit check required.
* You must be registered for Selective Service, if applicable.
* Applicant must possess a J.D. degree.
* Applicant must be an active member of the bar (any jurisdiction).
All that to earn zero. What's funny is I guarantee they got 500 resumes. US Attorney is still great experience and could lead to a biglaw job.
If I recall correctly those positions appeared in response to deferrals. If you were at one of the firms that paid the $ up front it probably would be an interesting way to spend the year.ReplyDelete
Ahhh right. So make that 1,000 resumes, many from deferred biglawyers, not 500.ReplyDelete
FYI University of Virginia just released detailed stats with salary data on 91.1% of their graduates.ReplyDelete
I didn't know UVA placed this well. I guess things are still good at the good schools.
11:56: I'd look at that data a little more closely before proclaiming how good things are for UVA grads. First, 11% of the 2010 class -- 40 people! -- are in fake jobs created by UVA to keep their employment numbers up. Second, another 10% of the class is working for firms of 2-10 attorneys. Almost literally no one in the classes of 2009 and 2008 (two people total) were in such jobs, which as noted in the OP are often temp positions. And there's no info at all on temporary versus permanent positions.ReplyDelete
Sure these are great numbers in comparison to the average law school, but the 2010 stats are horrible in comparison to those of UVA grads a few years earlier. 20% of the class basically doesn't have a real job.
Actually I see they bifurcated their "percentage of graduates reporting salaries" statistic by graduates in the private sector (91%) and graduats in the public sector (68%). Using the counts you can figure out the overall salary reporting rate which is 80%. 80% still isn't bad.ReplyDelete
Yes good points LawProf. I'd still say things are well at UVA (I thought they were experienced tier 2 level problems) but you're right things are worse for them now than they were in 2008.ReplyDelete
Even this medium level of disclosure from low ranked schools would obliterate the notion of low ranked law school as a good investment.ReplyDelete
Your move, everyone below . . . Fordham?
lol good luck getting a low ranked school to disclose that much information.ReplyDelete
What's troubling about 2010 vs. 2009 for UVA, is that I thought 2010 was supposed to be a better year economically.ReplyDelete
A lot of firms have deferred associates from c/o 2009 resulting in less hiring for 2010.
I did not know that US Attonry's offices even hired people right out of law school. That was not their practice in the past.ReplyDelete
LawProf--only about 6% (22/367) of the class at UVA 2010 has 2-10 lawyer firm jobs--that 9.8% is of firm jobs.ReplyDelete
Jon: Thanks for the correction. Given that UVA went to the extreme of creating short term fake positions for one out of every nine of its 2010 grads I wonder how much fluff (temp jobs, part-time jobs) is lurking in those law firm stats. I also wonder what their 2011 stats look like.ReplyDelete
Good question--I have a UVA intern at my (small) firm, I'll see what he has to say.ReplyDelete
Very insightful article.ReplyDelete
One minor quibble. Attorneys CAN be entitled to overtime, at least in some states. For example, in CA in order to classify a professional employee (like an attorney) as "exempt" from the overtime requirement, the employee must be paid at least twice the prevailing minimum wage.
An increasing number of jobs requiring a law degree do not meet this criteria.
A key mark of professional status is that one is paid a salary, rather than hourly, or by piece rate.ReplyDelete
One quibble/irony--I think that's an overbroad claim. I own my own law-firm--my employees are salaried; I'm not. Yet I would say I'm a "real" professional! Maybe qualify a bit (e.g., insert "at least at the entry level, before it is plausible for the lawyer to own a firm" or something). In medicine, too, the "salaried" doctors tend to make less than the non-salaried ones, so while I think your insight as to why many recent grads aren't listing salary is a good one, the terminology needs to be clarified a bit.
I wonder if there's any way to get this sort of information through the IRS? They're the ones who really know how much everyone is earning. I know they can't disclose how much an individual earned, but would they release aggregate statistics about the general law profession?ReplyDelete
That is a bridge too far, to have the IRS gathering stats on lawyers instead of collecting revenue. There is enough information out there for people to know if they should go to law school.ReplyDelete
The SAUSA (unpaid AUSA) positions do not allow firm-deferred attorneys to work for them if they are receiving a deferral stipend -- and they do not allow people to practice law anywhere else. See, e.g. here: http://www.justice.gov/careers/legal/jobs/wdva-anentsausa.htmReplyDelete
"Note that employees of the Department of Justice, including uncompensated SAUSAs, may not engage in the compensated practice of law outside of the office.
Attorneys are not eligible to serve as SAUSAs if the have been deferred by a law firm and received a payment for the period of their deferral, or if they will receive any payment from a law firm during their unpaid employment with the Department of Justice.
Attorneys are eligible if they have received severance or other one-time payment before becoming a SAUSA, or if they have an unpaid, future commitment to join a law firm."
Oh, and my favorite part about the SAUSA gigs: you're not eligible to be considered for paid employment for TWO years after you serve for free. The federal government's recruiting pitch appears to be, "Work for us for free - while not receiving any other form of compensation for legal services from current or future employer - and in return, we'll DISQUALIFY you from consideration for future paid positions. Love, Uncle Sam"ReplyDelete
I do not get the discussion about US Attorneys offices. They do not usually hire people straight out of law school. These internships for new graduates seems to be an add on, and are in keeping with the policy of only hiring people for real AUSA positions who have litigation experience.ReplyDelete
wth 6:26? why in the world would they create a rule like that?ReplyDelete
oh come on 7:01. these are not internships. they require you to have a JD and be licensed in a state. can't they afford to throw a few bucks your way?
I assume the US Attorney's office counts as nonprofit work (10 year debt forgiveness) for IBR, although that may not be true. Each federal agency makes that choice for themselves.
I am a 2011 graduate. I make $70k, but I am going to report $25k because of how dishonest the industry is.ReplyDelete
how will that cure the dishonesty? it seems like you're adding to it.ReplyDelete
At 7:49, the public sector is collapsing at the federal, state, and local levels. There have been stories the newspapers about that...ReplyDelete
I did not report my salary for a different reason: I didn't want to be pestered for the rest of my life to donate money to my school. That said, because my first job was a clerkship, it wasn't that difficult for my alma mater to figure it out and they probably filled in the info "for" me.ReplyDelete
On JD Underground someone posted the survey his/her law school sent. It does not simply ask for salary, it refers to salary or hourly wages. I would suppose this is not a fluke. It might be worth it to read a representative sample of the actual wording of these surveys before developing theories about them. Again, perhaps this is just the quirk of this survey. But, we should know.ReplyDelete
I take Lawprof's point that attorneys are increasingly working for an hourly wage rather than a salary.ReplyDelete
But I think the "shame" hypothesis is still responsible for some or most of this phenomenon. The number of students failing to report a salary so high and it isn't too hard to estimate a salary based on an hourly wage. I'm sure most people who work for an hourly wage have figured out their "salary" at some point and they could provide a number if they wanted to.
That may be true. But the post reads as if people are only being asked to report their "salary". And LawProf's sudden insight is that because many don't have a salary, and instead work for hourly wages,they don't think they are part of a category who should report. That's the reason for the low number of salary reports. I'm just saying until we know what most surveys actually ask, we can't run with the theory that this turns on the surveys just asking people their salary, when some surveys do ask people for hourly wages. In any case, the idea that many people, low-salaried or hourly wage earners, do not report because they are ashamed makes sense.ReplyDelete
Cocder2000, How does lying on a survey cure shame? Who are you posing for, the career services folks?ReplyDelete
7:20: You are taking the point of the post too literally. It's not that people don't report salaries because they don't have salaries in the formal sense. It's that they don't report their salaries in the looser sense -- meaning annual wage -- because they don't have real lawyer jobs, which among other things feature actual salaries as opposed to hourly temp wages. This is related to Coder's point about shame (and I would add rage). It's all of a piece in other words.ReplyDelete
Well, I was just taking off from your saying that you had this sudden insight that using the term salary might deter people from reporting. That led some commenters to talk about the importance of terminology, when really this was just another way to say that people who aren't making very much may not want to report that. You and others have been saying that all along, and that notion still operates with a form that asks for information about salary or hourly wages. So, there really was no "aha" moment.ReplyDelete
When I participated in Duke's "Bridge to Practice" program, the office completed my employment survey for me, counting me as employed. The survey was done online via simplicity. I had previously completed it and marked myself as unemployed because I didn't consider "Bridge to Practice" employment. However, they went in and changed me to employed, leaving my salary as unreported. I struggled to find a job and when I was offered a lucrative position that paid $24,000 a year, Duke's career services pressured me to take the job, stating that only one of the 30 students who participated in the Bridge Program had found a job after passing the bar. I know a few of these people are still unemployed even though we graduated in 2010.ReplyDelete