How Much Do Lawyers Make on Average (By Law Career)

How much money does a lawyer make? How much do lawyers make per year? In the legal area, working as a lawyer might provide interesting employment prospects. As a lawyer, you might make a broad variety of salaries depending on your specialization and region. Knowing how much attorneys earn might help you decide if this is the appropriate career option for you.

how much do lawyers make

What does a lawyer do?

A lawyer is licensed to practice law and is responsible for upholding the law while also safeguarding the rights of their clients. Providing legal advice and guidance, investigating and obtaining information or evidence, drafting legal papers relating to divorces, wills, contracts, and real estate transactions, and prosecuting or defending in court are all frequent responsibilities of a lawyer.

A lawyer's responsibilities extend beyond the traditional courtroom. Depending on the field of law, some tasks include conducting research, writing papers, resolving conflicts, and advising clients on their legal rights.

Because the law is so vast and complex, it is difficult for a single lawyer to offer legal advice in every area of the law. Lawyers specialize in one or two related areas of law, similar to a doctor who concentrates on a certain area of the body or a specific sort of sickness or disease.

Divorce attorney

Divorce attorneys are experts in the numerous legal issues that must be handled when ending a marriage. Child custody, court filings, and the split of assets and debts between spouses are all examples of these facts. A divorce lawyer will give the separation in the form of a court decree in the event of legal separations (a legal separation is a process by which a married couple can formalize a separation while remaining legally married). When there are children involved, a divorce lawyer can assist in determining child support and custody arrangements.

Lawyers strive to safeguard their clients' rights during the divorce process and to guarantee that their clients get a fair settlement once the marriage has been officially dissolved. In order to substantiate the supporting evidence, a divorce lawyer must do a thorough investigation into each case. Before it is filed to the court, the collected documentation detailing the evidence must cover every single detail. A divorce lawyer must also be a good listener and remain nonjudgmental when working with a wide range of clients.

Family law

Adoption, surrogacy, child abuse, child abduction, spousal abuse, estate or family planning, divorce, custody fights, paternity findings, juvenile delinquency, child emancipation, prenuptial agreements, and name changes are all handled by a family lawyer. Lawyers that practice family law represents their clients in family court hearings or discussions, as well as write any legal papers that can be required.

While some family attorneys specialize in divorce, the majority of them practice in all aspects of family law. Divorce law and family law are frequently confused, although divorce law is simply one of many topics that a family lawyer works with. It's worth noting that while a family lawyer can manage a divorce, he or she is unlikely to be qualified to represent clients in other family law problems.

Immigration law

Individuals who are deemed aliens have legal rights, obligations, and duties, and immigration attorneys specialize in assisting them in obtaining legal citizenship inside a given nation. They will also aid with citizenship examinations, represent persons in court to prevent deportation, and assist those in emergency situations in obtaining citizenship.

The immigration process is complicated, and immigration lawyers help their clients by analyzing all of the options and strategies that can be required throughout the process, preparing paperwork, organizing the documents and forms that will be required for the application, and preparing testimony and statements. They generally function as go-betweens for customers and immigration officials.

Criminal defense law

In state and federal courts, a criminal lawyer represents people and organizations facing criminal accusations. Fraud, domestic abuse crimes, theft, embezzlement, violent crimes, driving while intoxicated (DUI), sex crimes, and drug-related crimes are all examples of this. Trials, bail bond hearings, post-conviction remedies, plea bargains, and revocation hearings are all part of a criminal lawyer's business (parole or probation).

A criminal lawyer will interview all witnesses involved in a case, examine the statutes, case law, and criminal codes, and then construct a defense and design a case plan. In order to plea bargain to reduced charges, it is common to negotiate with the prosecution. During the trial, the criminal lawyer will represent the defendant and argue motions (applications to dismiss or motions to suppress) as well as appeals; all motions and appeals must be written and filed by the lawyer ahead of time.

Personal injury law (personal injury lawyer)

Accident and personal injury lawyers deal with civil lawsuits involving physical and psychological damage sustained as a result of an accident. This sort of lawyer generally practices in the field of law known as tort law and represents people who claim to have been damaged as a consequence of another person's or entity's carelessness. They assist people who have been injured in obtaining payment for their expenses incurred; this compensation is frequently required to cover medical expenses and lost income. Traffic collisions, slip and fall accidents, job injuries, faulty goods, and professional misconduct are all examples of frequent personal injury lawsuits.

The majority of personal injury and accident cases are resolved without going to trial. However, if an insurance company refuses a claim, the only option for the victim to receive compensation is to go through a full civil lawsuit. Litigation can be quite complicated, and it necessitates careful attention to certain processes and standards of proof.

how much do lawyers make

Corporate law

Business and corporate attorneys specialize in counseling and helping their clients through complicated legal processes and can handle a wide variety of legal challenges for both publicly traded and privately held firms. They specialize in agency and employment law, as well as contracts, sales, commercial paper, business organizations, and real estate and bailment. Their experience ranges from assisting brand new online businesses with their start-up needs to negotiating difficult acquisitions for multibillion-dollar corporations.

Negotiating, drafting, and reviewing mergers, acquisitions, and divestitures; advising on the rights and responsibilities of corporate directors and officers; assisting with the financial information business owners must provide to their employees, owners, and shareholders; and assisting with the Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC) mandatory reporting.

Pro tip: Some attorneys never join a law firm and instead work on their own. While this gives you the most personal flexibility, it usually means a lower salary. Others opt to work for large legal firms, some of which employ hundreds of lawyers across the country or around the world.

How much do lawyers make?

Lawyers in the United States earn an average of $73,604 per year. Lawyers' salaries typically start at $14,000 per year and rise to $204,000 per year. Lawyers' income potential is influenced by factors such as their geographic location, experience level, and speciality area.

Geography and income

In California, the average lawyer salary is $171,500. Montana is on the opposite end of the scale, with an average lawyer salary of $88,600. Of course, in Montana, $88,600 will go you a lot further than $171,500 in California.

Wage growth

The legal profession's steady but modest growth in average lawyer wages continues to exceed professional occupations for those who have graduated from high school or acquired a bachelor's degree.

Lawyer earnings by seniority

Average annual salary based on seniority.

Top-level lawyer earnings begin at:

$118.96 per hour, $247,433 per year.

Senior-level lawyer earnings begin at:

$84.46 per hour, $175,677 per year.

Mid-level lawyer earnings begin at:

$57.73 per hour $120,074 per year.

Junior-level lawyer earnings begin at:

$39.46 per hour, $82,070 per year.

Starting level lawyer earnings begin at:

$28.01 per hour, $58,270 per year.

Information provided by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (link). Not all law schools are created equal, and more prominent institutions have the potential for better pay. Though, more legal education doesn't necessarily result in higher compensation.

how much do lawyers make

Law careers and average salaries

If you wish to work in the legal area, there are many distinct specializations to select from. Below are some of the most frequent legal careers:

Law clerk average salary

Average hourly wage for a law clerk in the United States is $16.61.

Law clerks' main responsibilities are to help judges in making legal decisions. They do legal research and make decisions on relevant instances, as well as documenting legal proceedings. They provide recommendations to judges once they have completed their research. Many legal clerks are recent law school graduates, and the best-performing students are typically hired for these coveted law clerk positions.

Court clerk average salary

Average hourly wage for a court clerk in the United States is $16.90.

Primary responsibilities: Court clerks help judges, attorneys, and court personnel in federal and municipal courts. They administer oaths to witnesses and jurors, document court attendance, track legal document delivery and update court records. Court clerks can also create dockets and agendas for hearings.

Legal secretary average salary

The average annual wage in the United States is $47,074.

Legal secretaries' primary responsibilities include providing secretarial support to attorneys and paralegals in law firms. They prepare client and opposing party communications, transcribe legal documents, keep track of filing deadlines, and organize meetings with clients and other parties. Basic case research is also something that legal secretaries can do.

Paralegal average salary

The national average income for paralegals is $51,024 per year.

Paralegals' primary responsibilities include assisting attorneys and law firms with administrative work. They prepare case closure forms, do research before trials, and assist with depositions. Paralegals can also gather evidence to support cases, take witness testimonies, and keep track of current and closed cases in their files.

Mediator average salary

The national average compensation for a mediator is $61,416 per year.

Primary responsibilities: Mediators act as impartial third parties that assist clients in resolving legal issues. They specialize in assisting opposing parties in discussing complicated topics and reaching mutually beneficial solutions. While mediators do not make legally binding decisions or appear in court, they must have a thorough grasp of the laws and regulations that apply to them.

Immigration lawyer average salary

The national average income for immigration lawyers is $69,307 per year.

Immigration attorneys' main responsibilities are to assist newcomers in navigating the immigration procedure in their new nation. These attorneys can work on their own with individuals or on behalf of their companies with groups of immigrants. Immigration attorneys assist clients in obtaining and completing needed documents, as well as explaining and representing them in court.

Judge advocate average salary

The average annual wage in the United States is $72,094 dollars.

Judge advocates, often known as military attorneys, are in charge of military-related legal and judicial problems. These attorneys have commissioned officers who work for one of the US military services, providing specialized legal advice, prosecuting accused offenders, and defending clients in court.

Compliance officer average salary

The average annual wage in the United States is $73,382.

Primary responsibilities: Compliance officers assist with businesses to ensure that they adhere to local, state, and federal rules and standards. They're in charge of deciphering complicated rules, keeping track of important policy developments, and advising stakeholders on compliance methods. These lawyers are usually employed in businesses with stringent rules, such as healthcare and banking.

how much do lawyers make

Judge average salary

The national average compensation for a judge is $83,882 per year.

Judges' primary responsibilities include overseeing the legal procedure in courtrooms. They do legal research, supervise law clerk teams, listen to arguments and defenses, and conduct hearings and trials. Judges are also in charge of enforcing laws, making legal decisions, and issuing opinions on cases. From municipal courts to the Supreme Court, they operate at all levels of the legal system.

Litigation lawyer average salary

The average annual wage in the United States is $117,667.

Litigation attorneys, often known as trial lawyers, represent clients in civil cases. They perform investigations, supervise discovery, represent clients in court, and handle the settlement process. Lawyers that specialize in litigation can represent either plaintiffs or defendants, and they can also help with appeals.

Contracts lawyer average salary

Average hourly wage in the United States is $66.56.

Contract attorneys are experts in problems involving legally enforceable contracts, agreements, and other instruments. They write legal papers, analyze and amend existing contracts, and counsel clients on the consequences and results of agreements. These lawyers have a thorough knowledge of how to properly utilize and comprehend legal terminology.

Employment lawyer (personal injury lawyers) average salary

The average annual wage in the United States is $146,926.

how much do lawyers make

Primary responsibilities: Employment attorneys deal with labor issues and workers' and employees' legal rights. They can deal with issues like firing and dismissal, as well as compensation and benefits. Employment attorneys are knowledgeable in the rules and regulations that apply to employees in specific states and industries, and they can represent individuals, groups of employees, or labor organizations. These legal professionals usually work in private law firms.

Corporate lawyer (intellectual property lawyers) average salary

The national average hourly wage is $102

Corporate attorneys, also known as in-house counsels or corporate lawyers, work for businesses and give legal assistance to their clients. They can give general contract and employment advice, as well as more specialist assistance on patents, trademarks, and government laws. Some business attorneys also deal with concerns such as taxation, real estate, and labor unions. These legal professionals typically work in highly regulated industries. Sometimes referred to as an intellectual property attorney.

Tax lawyer average salary

The national average wage in the United States is $152,980.

In dealings with federal, state, and municipal tax agencies, tax lawyers represent a corporation, organization, or individual. Most tax attorneys provide advice to firms and individuals on all elements of tax laws on a daily basis. In addition, they oversee changes in tax law.

Pro tip: Many lawyers enter the legal field because they really want to help others. Other lawyers practice law because they truly wish to help people.

Civil rights lawyer average salary

A civil rights lawyer's beginning income is around $45,000 per year, although extremely skilled and experienced attorneys in this profession can earn up to $200,000. The federal government agencies employ the majority of the top earners. Attorneys working for the federal government earn an average of $130,210 per year, compared to $82,190 per year for state government attorneys.

Real estate lawyer average salary

Real estate lawyers can sometimes represent their clients in court. A property owner could sue a tenant for unpaid rent in a conventional property law dispute. To guarantee that their client has a solid case, real estate attorneys submit court paperwork, gather evidence to support the claim, and interview witnesses. In 2014, the typical annual pay for real estate attorneys was around $90,125.

how much do lawyers make

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author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW), NCDA Certified Career Counselor (CCC), and general career expert. Patrick has completed the NACE Coaching Certification Program (CCP). And has been published as a career expert on Forbes, Glassdoor, American Express, Reader's Digest, LiveCareer, Zety, Yahoo, Recruiter.com, SparkHire, SHRM.org, Process.st, FairyGodBoss, HRCI.org, St. Edwards University, NC State University, IBTimes.com, Thrive Global, TMCnet.com, Work It Daily, Workology, Career Guide, MyPerfectResume, College Career Life, The HR Digest, WorkWise, Career Cast, Elite Staffing, Women in HR, All About Careers, Upstart HR, The Street, Monster, The Ladders, Introvert Whisperer, and many more. Find him on LinkedIn.

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