Law: Rattling the Gilded Cage

The pay is lofty, but life for young lawyers can be the pits

For the nearly 37,000 graduates who stepped out of American law schools this spring, the most talked about legal decision of the year had nothing to do with the Supreme Court. It was the bombshell dropped last April by the elite New York City law firm of Cravath, Swaine & Moore. By the addition of a $12,000 "housing allowance," Cravath pushed its starting salary to a stratospheric $65,000 a year. Equal or larger increases went to junior lawyers already on the Cravath payroll.

The move jolted the legal profession, especially the expanding megafirms that compete with Cravath for a relatively stable...

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