Law: Legal Lucre: $37,000 Beginners

Beyond the bar exam lies a pot of gold—at least for the top students recruited by the big corporate law firms. Starting salaries at the large Wall Street legal factories, which began bidding up the pay of new lawyers a decade ago, will rise by some 6% this year to about $33,000. Pacesetting firms in Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington offer $25,000 to $30,000.

But most young lawyers enter a less gilded world. They send out scores of resumes and try not to jump at the first offer that comes along. Over the past few years, the average starting salary at...

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