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 Salary Scale (Interactive) for 2024

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    ClassYearSearch YearSalaryBonus (Spring)Bonus (Summer)Bonus (Fall)Special BonusesAnnual BonusTotalInflation-Adjusted
    1st Year2024Y202422500020000245000245000
    2nd Year2024Y202423500030000265000265000
    3rd Year2024Y202426000057500317500317500
    4th Year2024Y202431000075000385000385000
    5th Year2024Y202436500090000455000455000
    6th Year2024Y2024390000105000495000495000
    7th Year2024Y2024420000115000535000535000
    8th Year2024Y2024435000115000550000550000
    1st Year2023Y20232150002120212020000235000235000
    2nd Year2023Y20232250002826282630000255000255000
    3rd Year2023Y20232500004239423957500307500307500
    4th Year2023Y20232950008126812675000370000370000
    5th Year2023Y2023345000105991059990000435000435000
    6th Year2023Y20233700001271812718105000475000475000
    7th Year2023Y20234000001483814838115000515000515000
    8th Year2023Y20234150001625116251115000530000530000
    1st Year2022Y202221500020000235000235000
    2nd Year2022Y202222500030000255000255000
    3rd Year2022Y202225000057500307500307500
    4th Year2022Y202229500075000370000370000
    5th Year2022Y202234500090000435000435000
    6th Year2022Y2022370000105000475000475000
    7th Year2022Y2022400000115000515000515000
    8th Year2022Y2022415000115000530000530000
    1st Year2021Y20212050004500750016000
    2nd Year2021Y20212150006000100002200030000259500259500
    3rd Year2021Y202124000012000200004350057500331000331000
    4th Year2021Y202127500016500275005900075000399000399000
    5th Year2021Y202130500019500325007000090000452500452500
    6th Year2021Y2021330000222003700080200105000502700502700
    7th Year2021Y2021350000240004000087000115000539500539500
    8th Year2021Y2021365000240004000087000115000554500554500
    1st Year2020Y20201900007500750015000212500223954.49153435
    2nd Year2020Y2020200000100001000025000235000247667.32004975
    3rd Year2020Y2020220000200002000050000290000305632.01197629
    4th Year2020Y2020255000275002750065000347500366231.46262677
    5th Year2020Y2020280000325003250080000392500413657.11965757
    6th Year2020Y2020305000370003700090000432000455286.30749572
    7th Year2020Y20203250004000040000100000465000490065.12265164
    8th Year2020Y20203400004000040000100000480000505873.67499524
    1st Year2019Y2019190000015000205000219012.9653831
    2nd Year2019Y2019200000025000225000240380.08395706
    3rd Year2019Y2019220000050000270000288456.10074847
    4th Year2019Y2019255000065000320000341873.89718338
    5th Year2019Y2019280000080000360000384608.1343313
    6th Year2019Y2019305000090000395000422000.59183573
    7th Year2019Y20193250000100000425000454051.26969667
    8th Year2019Y20193400000100000440000470076.60862714
    1st Year2018Y20181900005000500015000205000222760.94440812
    2nd Year2018Y20182000007500750025000227500247210.31635535
    3rd Year2018Y2018220000100001000050000275000298825.65713284
    4th Year2018Y2018255000150001500065000325000353157.59479335
    5th Year2018Y2018280000200002000080000370000402056.33868782
    6th Year2018Y2018305000250002500090000407500442805.2919332
    7th Year2018Y20183250002500025000100000437500475404.45452951
    8th Year2018Y20183400002500025000100000452500491704.03582767
    1st Year2017Y2017180000015000195000216719.33706589
    2nd Year2017Y2017190000025000215000238946.96138034
    3rd Year2017Y2017210000050000260000288959.11608785
    4th Year2017Y2017235000065000300000333414.36471675
    5th Year2017Y2017260000080000340000377869.61334565
    6th Year2017Y2017280000090000370000411211.04981733
    7th Year2017Y20173000000100000400000444552.486289
    8th Year2017Y20173150000100000415000461223.20452484
    1st Year2016Y2016180000015000185000210196.62133705
    2nd Year2016Y2016190000025000205000232920.58040052
    3rd Year2016Y2016210000050000247500281208.99341038
    4th Year2016Y2016235000065000287500326656.91153731
    5th Year2016Y2016260000080000325000369264.33478131
    6th Year2016Y2016280000090000355000403350.2733765
    7th Year2016Y20163000000100000382500434595.71708877
    8th Year2016Y20163150000100000397500451638.68638637
    1st Year2015Y2015160000015000175000201745.15089927
    2nd Year2015Y2015170000025000195000224801.73957347
    3rd Year2015Y2015185000050000235000270914.91692187
    4th Year2015Y2015210000065000275000317028.09427028
    5th Year2015Y2015230000080000310000357377.12445013
    6th Year2015Y2015250000090000340000391962.00746144
    7th Year2015Y20152650000100000365000420782.74330419
    8th Year2015Y20152800000100000380000438075.18480984
    1st Year2014Y2014160000015000175000201672.26156293
    2nd Year2014Y2014170000025000195000224720.52002727
    3rd Year2014Y2014185000040000225000259292.90772377
    4th Year2014Y2014210000055000265000305389.42465244
    5th Year2014Y2014230000070000300000345723.87696503
    6th Year2014Y2014250000085000335000386058.32927761
    7th Year2014Y20142650000100000365000420630.71697411
    8th Year2014Y20142800000100000380000437916.91082237
    1st Year2013Y2013160000010000170000199158.22793109
    2nd Year2013Y2013170000014000184000215559.49376071
    3rd Year2013Y2013185000020000205000240161.39250514
    4th Year2013Y2013210000027000237000277650.0001157
    5th Year2013Y2013230000034000264000309281.0127871
    6th Year2013Y2013250000040000290000339740.50647068
    7th Year2013Y2013265000050000315000369028.48116643
    8th Year2013Y2013280000060000340000398316.45586218
    1st Year2012Y2012160000010000170000201518.1044721
    2nd Year2012Y2012170000014000184000218113.71307569
    3rd Year2012Y2012185000020000205000243007.12598107
    4th Year2012Y2012210000027000237000280939.9456464
    5th Year2012Y2012230000034000264000312945.76223903
    6th Year2012Y2012250000040000290000343766.17821712
    7th Year2012Y2012265000050000315000373401.19358066
    8th Year2012Y2012280000060000340000403036.20894421
    1st Year2011Y2011160000250025007500170000205530.89824076
    2nd Year2011Y20111700007500750010000187500226688.49070672
    3rd Year2011Y2011185000100001000015000210000253891.10959152
    4th Year2011Y2011210000150001500020000245000296206.29452344
    5th Year2011Y2011230000200002000025000275000332476.45303652
    6th Year2011Y2011250000200002000030000300000362701.58513075
    7th Year2011Y2011265000200002000037500322500389904.20401555
    8th Year2011Y2011280000200002000037500337500408039.28327209
    1st Year2010Y201016000007500167500210342.13194564
    2nd Year2010Y2010170000010000180000226039.30597143
    3rd Year2010Y2010185000015000200000251154.7844127
    4th Year2010Y2010210000020000230000288828.00207461
    5th Year2010Y2010230000025000255000320222.3501262
    6th Year2010Y2010250000030000280000351616.69817779
    7th Year2010Y2010265000035000300000376732.17661906
    8th Year2010Y2010280000035000315000395568.78545001
    1st Year2009Y200916000007500167500212747.77847909
    2nd Year2009Y2009170000010000180000228624.47836559
    3rd Year2009Y2009185000015000200000254027.19818399
    4th Year2009Y2009210000020000230000292131.27791158
    5th Year2009Y2009230000025000255000323884.67768458
    6th Year2009Y2009250000030000280000355638.07745758
    7th Year2009Y2009265000030000295000374690.11732138
    8th Year2009Y2009280000030000310000393742.15718518
    1st Year2008Y2008160000035000195000244490.8880754
    2nd Year2008Y2008170000040000210000263297.87946582
    3rd Year2008Y2008185000045000230000288373.86798637
    4th Year2008Y2008210000050000260000325987.8507672
    5th Year2008Y2008230000055000285000357332.8364179
    6th Year2008Y2008250000060000310000388677.82206859
    7th Year2008Y2008265000060000325000407484.81345901
    8th Year2008Y2008280000060000340000426291.80484942
    1st Year2007Y2007160000045000205000269718.21153207
    2nd Year2007Y2007170000055000225000296032.18338885
    3rd Year2007Y2007185000065000250000328924.64820984
    4th Year2007Y2007210000080000290000381552.59192341
    5th Year2007Y2007230000095000325000427602.04267279
    6th Year2007Y20072500000110000360000473651.49342216
    7th Year2007Y20072650000110000375000493386.97231475
    8th Year2007Y20072800000110000390000513122.45120735
    1st Year2006Y2006145000030000175000236590.68531492
    2nd Year2006Y2006155000035000190000256869.88691334
    3rd Year2006Y2006170000040000210000283908.82237791
    4th Year2006Y2006190000045000235000317707.49170861
    5th Year2006Y2006200000050000250000337986.69330703
    6th Year2006Y2006210000055000265000358265.89490545
    7th Year2006Y2006220000065000285000385304.83037002
    8th Year2006Y2006220000065000285000385304.83037002
    1st Year2005Y2005125000030000155000213873.49128323
    2nd Year2005Y2005135000035000170000234570.92592354
    3rd Year2005Y2005150000040000190000262167.50544396
    4th Year2005Y2005170000045000215000296663.22984448
    5th Year2005Y2005190000050000240000331158.954245
    6th Year2005Y2005205000055000260000358755.53376541
    7th Year2005Y2005215000060000275000379452.96840573
    8th Year2005Y2005225000060000285000393251.25816594
    1st Year2004Y2004125000030000155000223897.05086185
    2nd Year2004Y2004135000?135000195007.10881516
    3rd Year2004Y2004150000?150000216674.56535018
    4th Year2004Y2004170000?170000245564.50739687
    5th Year2004Y2004190000?190000274454.44944356
    6th Year2004Y2004205000?205000296121.90597858
    7th Year2004Y2004215000060000275000397236.70314199
    8th Year2004Y2004225000060000285000411681.67416534
    1st Year2003Y2003125000017500142500211064.66024461
    2nd Year2003Y2003135000019000154000228097.94861522
    3rd Year2003Y2003150000024000174000257721.05882499
    4th Year2003Y2003170000024000194000287344.16903476
    5th Year2003Y2003190000025000215000318448.43475502
    6th Year2003Y2003205000025000230000340665.76741235
    7th Year2003Y2003215000025000240000355477.32251723
    8th Year2003Y2003225000025000250000370288.87762211
    1st Year2002Y2002125000017500142500215962.29325558
    2nd Year2002Y2002135000019000154000233390.82920252
    3rd Year2002Y2002150000024000174000263701.32650155
    4th Year2002Y2002170000024000194000294011.82380058
    5th Year2002Y2002190000025000215000325837.84596456
    6th Year2002Y2002205000025000230000348570.71893883
    7th Year2002Y2002215000025000240000363725.96758834
    8th Year2002Y2002225000025000250000378881.21623786
    1st Year2001Y2001125000?125000192309.30990066
    2nd Year2001Y2001135000?135000207694.05469272
    3rd Year2001Y2001150000?150000230771.1718808
    4th Year2001Y2001170000?170000261540.6614649
    5th Year2001Y2001190000?190000292310.15104901
    6th Year2001Y2001205000?205000315387.26823709
    7th Year2001Y2001215000?215000330772.01302914
    8th Year2001Y2001225000?225000346156.75782119
    1st Year2000Y2000125000035000160000252674.72714855
    2nd Year2000Y2000135000?135000213194.30103159
    3rd Year2000Y2000150000?150000236882.55670177
    4th Year2000Y2000170000?170000268466.89759534
    5th Year2000Y2000190000?190000300051.23848891
    6th Year2000Y2000205000?205000323739.49415908
    7th Year2000Y2000215000?215000339531.66460587
    8th Year2000Y2000225000?225000355323.83505265
    1st Year1999Y1999100000015000115000187883.56149769
    2nd Year1999Y1999??00
    3rd Year1999Y1999??00
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    1st Year1987Y198768000?68000162200.69491739
    2nd Year1987Y1987
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    1st Year1986Y198665000?65000161798.09427096
    2nd Year1986Y1986
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    4th Year1986Y198650005000
    5th Year1986Y1986
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    8th Year1986Y19862000020000
    1st Year1985Y198553000?53000134242.19776072
    2nd Year1985Y1985
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    1st Year1968Y196815000?15000117226.49720803
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    Note: The salary summation may look incorrect in years when the base salary has increased. We've set up the total column to calculate the total amount paid to an associate pro-rata based on the portion of the year they were paid at the previous salary scale and the portion of the year they were paid at the updated salary scale. Inflation data is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics CPI Inflation Calculator and updated in October of each year. Annual bonuses are the expected bonuses based on last year's bonus numbers. Each year the annual bonuses are typically announced in November or December.

    Biglaw has no official definition but loosely refers to the nation’s largest law firms by headcount, smaller firms that pay at the market rate or medium-sized firms with international reach. Most Biglaw firms 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 and paid to New York lawyers working at Cravath. Not only are all lawyers on this pay 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 LLP is generally considered the trendsetter when it comes to associate salaries (despite the fact that other firms, such as Milbank and Simpson Thacher have been the first movers on first-year associate salaries in the past few years). Given the lockstep nature, associates and law students (as well as their in-house peers) 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 law students from the best law schools. If one firm offers a higher salary, historically the other firms tend to announce salary increases shortly thereafter. The above 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.

    Biglaw Budget Template

    Convert income into wealth. Budgeting may seem unnecessary when you're making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, but unless you plan to continue doing so forever (or, even if you do), a simple budget will help maximize the conversion of your income into wealth.

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    Which other law firm markets pay the Cravath scale?

    In the past, the Biglaw salary scale has been set out of the New York City offices of major firms like Jones Day, Skadden, etc. Initially, these starting salaries were not paid to associates working in “secondary” markets such as Los Angeles, Chicago, or Houston. Over time, however, the distribution of the Cravath scale has been such that most first-year associates at large national firms can expect their base salary to be the same as other first-year associates in local offices in the United States.

    The biggest changes in the pay scale over the past two years have been related to mid-level and senior associate salaries. As firms struggle to retain mid-level and senior associate talent, firms have increased those salaries disproportionately (i.e. more) than they’ve increased starting salaries for first-year associates.

    What is the Biglaw bonus scale?

    In addition to receiving standardized salaries across the industry, associates working in Biglaw can expect to receive the same annual bonuses and summer bonuses as their peers based on the market bonuses set by the leading firms. Bonus eligibility is a function of meeting certain billable hour targets at your firm (although not all firms require a minimum billable hour threshold).

    Historical Biglaw bonuses through the present year are included in the chart above. The chart does not include clerkship bonus amounts, as the information has been challenging to compile (if you’re interested in contributing or want to know what I’ve found so far, send me an email).

    How are Cravath bonuses set each year?

    Typically, in late November or early December, a Biglaw firm will announce its year-end bonuses via a memo delivered to associates. In most years, the first firm to make the announcement is Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP, but that isn’t always the case.

    If you’re wondering when the bonus announcement is made (or will be made in the future), the partners at Cravath have a standing weekly meeting on Monday during lunch. This means that Cravath’s bonus announcement is almost always on Monday afternoon at the conclusion of the weekly meeting. Soon after the Cravath bonus memo is released, you can expect to see it posted on a legal news website like Above the Law, the New York Law Journal or American Lawyer.

    Regardless of which large law firm makes the first announcement regarding associate bonuses for a given year, there is typically some suspense over whether other firms will match the bonus scale or potentially offer more money (i.e. bonus season!). In the rare event that a law firm either announces before Cravath or announces a bonus scale that is higher than Cravath, the firms typically quickly consolidate around the top of the market to set the Biglaw bonus scale for that year.

    This is true except for a few outlier firms (e.g. last year Susman Godfrey paid six-figure bonuses to associates, as it has done in previous years). The outlier firms tend to be litigation boutique firms with extraordinary years and so fall outside the typical Wall Street firm construct.

    Joshua Holt is a lawyer with 10 years of experience in Biglaw working at the country’s largest law firms, culminating in his work at a Vault 30 law firm in the private equity mergers & acquisition group. He has extensive experience counseling associates in lateraling to a firm with a better fit, helping associates make partner and working with law students navigating on-campus and call-back interviews.