The downturn and the legal profession – from the New York Times

Editorial Observer – With the Downturn, It’s Time to Rethink the Legal Profession – NYTimes.com

The silver lining, if there is one, is that the legal world may be inspired to draw blueprints for the 21st century.

The changes are likely to begin with compensation. Years ago, law firm starting salaries were not that different from government or public-interest jobs. But the gap has become a chasm. First-year salaries at top firms are around $160,000, compared with $48,000 to start for state and local prosecutors and $40,000 for legal-services lawyers. New associates often earn more than the judges they appear before.

The downturn will probably rein in salaries at the high end. Top firms are already under pressure to lower the $160,000 starting salary; one industry-watcher says it could fall as low as $100,000. And fewer firms will feel the need to pay the top salary.

Lower pay should mean that associates will not need to work the grueling hours many have been forced to. And it will mean less pressure to go into private practice for law graduates who would rather do something else.

Thanks to Prof. Ahdieh for the link.

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