Tipping the Scales

What Yale Law School Grads Make In Their First Jobs

by John A. Byrne on

imagesAll the hand-wringing about the value of a law degree tends to overlook the fact that graduates of the very best schools have had no problem landing well-paying jobs.

So what can you expect if you were fortunate enough to get into Yale Law School, consistently the top school in U.S. News’ rankings? The median pay for a Class of 2012 JD hit $100,188, up from $98,558 a year earlier, while the average pay was $64,729, up from $64,000 in 2011.

What’s more, Yale JDs–as you would expect–were a lock for an immediate job. Some 90.7% of the Class of 2012 had full-time jobs requiring Bar passage at graduation and 91.2% landed jobs nine months later.

Not surprising, the highest starting salaries went to law grads who went into private practice. For the Class of 2012, the median starting salary was a hefty $160,000, while the average was $156,320. These numbers are considerably higher than the median and average for the entire class: $64,729 and $100,188, respectively. And they’re fairly uniform across all of the very best law schools in the country where the $160,000 median for a private practice job is exactly the same at Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, Chicago and UPenn, among others.

After those lucrative private practice jobs with big law firms, JDs who enter academia and judicial clerkships pull down the highest median salaries: $67,000 for academics and $61,612 for judicial clerks. That’s a good deal more than grads who move into the government or public interest jobs who in 2012 reported median pay of just $44,000.

Starting Salaries for Yale Law School’s Class of 2012

Job Average Median
Judicial Clerk $60,432 $61,612
Private Practice $156,320 $160,000
Government $58,833 $44,000
Public Interest $50,352 $44,000
Academic $72,333 $67,000
Overall $100,188 $64,729

Source: Yale Law School Employment Report for the Class of 2012

  • GoogleLawSchoolDebt

    Average and median salary statistics mean nothing when the salary distribution is bimodal. In law, if you don’t make BigLaw, you will struggle to make a decent salary. It’s either $160,000 at a big firm or $40-60,000 at a small firm where you’ll work equivalent hours. These statistics are completely misleading and if you’re a law school applicant, I recommend you conduct EXTENSIVE and very thorough research about the employment, debt, and job outcomes for the vast majority of law school students. Many lives have been ruined.

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