Biglaw Salary Scale


Below is the current biglaw salary scale, along with historical data on the previous salary scales and calculations with inflation-adjusted dollars.

Biglaw has no official definition but loosely refers to the nation’s largest law firms, most of which are located in the major U.S. cities. Lawyers working in Biglaw are generally paid on the Cravath scale, which is a system of lockstep associate compensation based on the number of years out of law school. Not only are all lawyers on the Cravath scale paid the same, they can generally expect to receive the same market bonus each year.

It’s called the Cravath scale because it’s an offshoot of the Cravath system and because Cravath, Swaine & Moore is generally considered the trendsetter when it comes to associate salaries. Given the lockstep nature, associates tend to follow any changes to the Biglaw salary scale closely.

The Cravath scale has largely stayed the same across the major law firms because those firms are competing for the best students from the best schools. If one firm offers a higher salary, historically the other firms tend to follow suit. The below tables show the current Biglaw salary scale, as well historical changes in associate compensation and a comparison of the historical Biglaw associate salaries with the current Cravath scale on an inflation-adjusted basis.

Current Biglaw Salary Scale (as of July 2018)

ClassSalaryBonusTotal
1st Year$190,000$15,000$205,000
2nd Year$200,000$25,000$225,000
3rd Year$220,000$50,000$270,000
4th Year$255,000$65,000$320,000
5th Year$280,000$80,000$360,000
6th Year$305,000$90,000$395,000
7th Year$325,000$100,000$425,000
8th Year$345,000$100,000$445,000

Historical Biglaw Salary Scale (as of July 2016)

ClassSalaryInflation-Adjusted
1st Year$180,000$188,291
2nd Year$190,000$198,752
3rd Year$210,000$219,673
4th Year$235,000$245,825
5th Year$260,000$271,976
6th Year$280,000$292,897
7th Year$300,000$313,818
8th Year$315,000$329,510

Historical Biglaw Salary Scale (as of January 2007)

ClassSalaryInflation-Adjusted
1st Year$160,000$198,966
2nd Year$170,000$211,401
3rd Year$185,000$230,054
4th Year$210,000$261,143
5th Year$230,000$286,013
6th Year$250,000$310,885
7th Year$265,000$329,537
8th Year$280,000$348,190

Historical Biglaw Salary Scale (as of 2006)

ClassSalaryInflation-Adjusted
1st Year$145,000$184,056

Historical Biglaw Salary Scale (as of January 2000)

ClassSalaryInflation-Adjusted
1st Year$125,000$186,398
2nd Year$135,000$201,309
3rd Year$150,000$223,678
4th Year$170,000$253,501
5th Year$190,000$283,325
6th Year$205,000$305,692
7th Year$220,000$328,061
8th Year$235,000$350,428

Historical Biglaw Salary Scale (as of 1999)

ClassSalaryInflation-Adjusted
1st Year$100,000$153,202



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