Should all law-school graduates be this confident? (Reuters/Jim Bourg)

Should all law-school graduates be this confident? (Reuters/Jim Bourg)

How bullish are you on the practice of law? Are things getting rosier by the month, or is it too early to tell?

I ask because, well, it’s kind of my job to ask. But I also came across two recent articles that suggest the legal profession is in a watershed moment—not entirely great, but cautiously optimistic.

The first article (sent my way by the great communications pro Katie Mayer) examines the starting salaries of new associates, and it offers a more nuanced gaze than you might expect. Yes, the author admits, those salaries are marginally higher. But that may be due to the fact that more large firms are providing data. And even in those big firms, new lawyers are seeing lower salaries than in the heyday of law. Why? As big firms gobble up regional ones, those “new” lawyers in the smaller cities are not being paid close to the $160,000 that their big-city colleagues get.

As Max Nisen writes, “According to NALP, … many large firms have been buying up smaller, more regional firms outside major urban centers where pay is higher. Those smaller firms often don’t pay their associates $160,000, which lowers the percentage of large law firm salaries that start at that rate.”

See? Nuanced.

The second article, in the ABA Journal, explores the job market for new law grads. But its author honestly admits that while prospects may be up, that may be due to having fewer graduates in the marketplace. As fewer people opt to enter the law, those who remain may see marginally better opportunities.

Mark Hansen writes:

“Nearly 60 percent of all 2014 law school graduates were employed in full-time, long-term legal jobs, requiring bar passage, as of March 15, according to data released Wednesday [on April 29] by the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar.”

That is up nearly three percent from last year, Hansen say. You can see that data yourself here.

If this all is the new normal, at least it’s a slightly better version of normal.

Do the two articles reflect your experience? Are you cautiously optimistic too?