Reality Check for Law Firm Associates

New associates have to consider the changing landscape of the law industry.

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Meanwhile, San Francisco-based Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe hires “career” associates for nonpartnership-track positions typically paid $65,000 to $85,000. The program has swelled at the 1,000-plus attorney firm, from less than 5 to nearly 50 in three years. “The practice of law is changing fundamentally,” says Orrick Chairman and CEO Ralph Baxter. 

Whether such models can sustain new law school students, who face total tuitions in the $150,000 range, is unclear. “People ought to think very hard whether a legal career is for them,” says Wilkins. For those determined to pursue one, Wilkins suggests learning how law firm economics work and focusing on the intersection of “law, business, and public policy.” Davis adds: “Develop your skills early on. Ask and take advantage of resources. It’s a lot of work being an associate other than being an associate.”