In more quantitative terms, Figure 1 below clearly shows that the salaries of newly minted attorneys bifurcate sharply into two distinct groups, the BigLaw lockstep salary that has hovered at $160,000 and a much lower peak of around $50,000, with a median salary of $62,000.
For the class of 2008, the lawyers who began their jobs at firms right as Bear Sterns, Lehman Brothers, and the rest of the finance world fell apart and the credit markets unraveled, 23% (5130 people of the 22,305 law school graduates that year) reported an entry-level salary of $160,000. In contrast, 42% reported salaries in the $40,000 to $65,000 range. And this is the BigLaw model at its glorious peak of operations! Immediately in 2009, layoffs, deferrals, and salary cuts swept through the legal market and every law school class in the near future has to come to terms with the fact that the economic landscape is very different than it once was.
 Bill Henderson, The End of an Era: the Bi-Modal Distribution for the Class of 2008, Legal Profession Blog, June 29, 2009, http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_profession/2009/06/the-end-of-an-era-the-bi-modal-distribution-for-the-class-of-2008.html (last visited April 2, 2010).
Building a Better Legal Profession (BBLP) is an organization based at Stanford Law School. BBLP is a national grassroots movement that seeks market-based workplace reforms in large private law firms. For more information, visit BBLP's Web site at www.betterlegalprofession.org.