Research recently reported by NALP indicates that aggregate starting private practice salaries fell an astonishing 20% for the 2010 class. “This downward shift in starting salaries is not, for the most part, because individual legal employers were paying new graduates less than they paid them in the past,” NALP Executive Director James Leipold explained in a recent press release. Rather, he attribures the fall to the fact that graduates found fewer jobs with large, high-paying law firms and many more found jobs with the smallest law firms. Based on this statistic, you would be better served to focus your job search efforts on small firms with 1 to 10 lawyers rather than medium to large firms since small firms are the ones hiring. Moreover, although they generally pay less than larger firms, small firms sometimes offer a better work-life balance. If you are determined to ultimately work in a large firm environment, you can start in a small firm, gain critical experience and develop a reputation for expertise in your practice area, which will make you marketable as a lateral hire for a large firm.