LAWYER SALARY: Average Salaries By State, Experience & Field of Practice (Updated!)

Lawyer Salary

The legal profession is as diverse as it is vast — and so are the associated incomes.
According to salary.com, the average lawyer salary in the United States in September 2021 is $160,414 per year.
Keep in mind that salary ranges can vary greatly depending on a variety of criteria, including job, education, certifications, supplementary talents, and the number of years you have worked in your field.
This article breaks down the salary figures by specialty like corporate, tax, and real estate lawyer to give you a basic notion of how much money lawyers who operate in a variety of situations may expect to make. Remember that a significant part of deciding on a job choice should be based on your lifestyle. Also, keep in mind that there are distinct levels of ‘prestige’ and ego connected with each subject of law.

What Is the Lawyer Salary?

A career in law may appeal to you for a variety of reasons, including the fact that it is satisfying, influential work, ideal for people who are effective communicators and pay close attention to detail, and has high job security.

However, for some, a six-figure lawyer salary is a significant selling point.

It is not simple to become a lawyer, which is why this profession has such a promising professional future. Whether the impressive lawyer salary is a motivator to enter the profession or simply an added bonus to a career path you already know is right for you, this guide will provide important insight into lawyers’ income—from the average salary of a lawyer in general to average salaries of lawyers based on specific fields, locations, and other individualized factors.

Average Lawyer Salary

According to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the average lawyer’s salary is $160,414, with the lowest 10% of all lawyers’ salaries falling below $59,670 and the highest 10% of salaries reaching $208,000.

While this appears to be a wide range, there are several elements that distinguish the average lawyer’s salary: how long you’ve been a lawyer, what state you practice in, and what field you operate in. We’ll go through it in more depth below.

Average Lawyer Salary: Based on Experience

According to the salary survey site PayScale, here is an overall look at how the average salary of a lawyer improves the longer you’ve been practicing:

  • $62,000 for one year of experience (or less).
  • $72,000 for 1-4 years of experience.
  • $96,000 for 5-9 years of experience.
  • $110,000 for 10-19 years of experience.
  • $127,000 for 20 years of experience (or more).

When compared to the compensation of most positions coming out of college or graduate school, entry-level lawyers make an impressive salary—and these figures include tips, bonuses, and overtime pay, so depending on your success, you might easily be making more than average.

State-by-State Average Lawyer Salary

The location has a significant impact on lawyer salaries. Larger cities, for example, have more inhabitants and a greater cost of living, therefore wages are higher. According to the American Bar Association (ABA) Journal, lawyers are in more demand in areas such as Silicon Valley, where the average lawyer salary is $207,950, and Washington, DC, where the average is $179,980.

Keep in mind that the criteria for becoming a lawyer vary based on where you want to work. Furthermore, whether you intend to work for a law firm or form your own practice will have an impact on your starting salary. Looking at lawyer salaries by the state is still highly informative. Regardless of local or regional variances, it’s a simple approach to acquire an approximate number of how much you’d make working in the area.

According to Forbes Magazine, the following are the top ten highest-paying states for lawyers to work in:

  • California: $171,550
  • New York: $167,110
  • Massachusetts: $165,610
  • Connecticut: $155,640
  • Illinois: $152, 980
  • Texas: $150,250
  • Colorado: $147,560
  • Arizona: $145,750
  • Virginia: $139,180
  • New Jersey: $139,020

According to the same data, the following are the ten lowest-paying states, in descending order:

  • Montana: $88,6000.
  • Mississippi: $97,990
  • West Virginia: $98,630
  • Arkansas: $98,780.
  • Idaho: $99,360
  • Kentucky: $100,000
  • South Carolina: $105,320
  • Louisiana: $105,490.
  • Wyoming: $105,600.
  • New Mexico: $105,910

The remaining 30 states’ average lawyer salaries range from $138,920 (Nevada) to $107,120 (Maine), meaning you’ll be making a six-figure salary in all except five states: Montana, Mississippi, West Virginia, Arkansas, and Idaho—not to suggest it’s impossible.

After all, these are only averages.

Average Lawyer Salary: Factors That Influence It

Individual characteristics such as who you are, what field you specialize in, and where you work all play a part in salary disparities.

#1. Gender Wage Disparity

According to the ABA Journal, thorough data collecting of pay, bonuses, and profit-sharing from solo practitioners and attorneys at legal firms revealed that women earn 36% less than their male counterparts, a potential difference of $79,000 per year.

This isn’t unique to the legal profession—women have long been known to earn less than males despite doing the same employment.

What is particular to lawyers, however, is far more encouraging: the gender wage gap for practicing attorneys has been diminishing since 2017.

There are also differences in pay based on the practice area or the precise topic of law in which you specialize. The PayScale website has published the average annual salary of a lawyer in the following categories.

Corporate Lawyer Salary

Corporate lawyers’ principal responsibility is to ensure the legality of business transactions. These attorneys counsel corporations on a variety of issues, including acquiring and analyzing evidence for legal proceedings, drafting contracts, advising companies on their legal rights and obligations in business transactions, and offering tax advice.

As a result of such extensive employment needs, corporate lawyers must specialize in a wide range of legal areas. Tax law, contract law, accounting law, and securities law are major specializations related to corporate law. Many corporate lawyers’ primary concern is thus to understand how these various areas of the law are connected to the firms that hire them.

Corporate Lawyer Starting Salary

A corporate lawyer salary will often range from $30,000 to $100,000 per year, depending on the employer’s size, location, and financial situation. If they have the necessary skill set and have performed well during their internships, the best graduates of top law schools can expect substantially higher salaries and profitable positions shortly after they graduate. According to the Forbes website, there are several top-tier programs, such as Columbia Law School, where graduates may expect to earn an average starting salary of $165,000.

Stanford University, the University of Chicago, Harvard University, and the University of Virginia are among the other institutions that produce top earners in the subject. Most graduates of US law schools, on the other hand, will have to settle for a lower lawyer salary, even if they obtain a job in the comparatively lucrative subject of corporate law.

Corporate Lawyer Average Salary

In 2014, the average yearly salary for a corporate lawyer was $98,823, according to PayScale. A corporate lawyer is compensated based on their knowledge and experience, both of which have a significant impact on salary. Lawyers who find their specialization in corporate law and stay with the same firm can expect their income to rise year after year.

In general, in-house business lawyers are compensated less than attorneys at major law firms that charge high rates. This is a bit of a generalization, and while it is true that the highest-earning persons in the legal sector tend to be partners in large law firms, in-house lawyers aren’t always worse off financially than their peers.

Patent lawyer Salary

In a nutshell, patent attorneys are responsible for determining whether or not an innovation is patentable. They guide and advise both individual private inventors and corporations in the process of obtaining a patent. Patent attorneys safeguard patents in the event of infringement once the patent is secured. A patent attorney’s responsibilities include explaining inventions in clear and unmistakable legal language, researching and evaluating existing patents, and litigating infringement claims in court.

Patent lawyers are also well-versed in various aspects of intellectual property rights and may assist clients and employers with relevant concerns such as designs and trademarks. According to PayScale.com, the median annual salary of patent attorneys in 2014 was $129,500. The salary of a patent lawyer is determined by various criteria, including the industry in which they operate, the size of the company for which they work, the number of years they have worked in the area, and their level of education. A patent lawyer often requires a highly specialized skill set, which frequently includes extra schooling in a relevant discipline such as engineering or biology.

Criminal Lawyer Salary

The professional description of a criminal lawyer involves defending persons, organizations, and businesses facing criminal accusations in state, federal, or appellate court. A criminal lawyer’s key responsibilities include investigating the case, interviewing witnesses, studying case law and procedural law, constructing a defense, and planning a strategy for the case. A criminal lawyer’s competence also includes negotiating plea bargains in less serious situations.
To successfully argue a case in front of a judge and a jury, a criminal lawyer must have excellent written and oral advocacy skills. In the process of formulating a plan and conducting research for difficult court matters, creative thinking and analytical skills are equally important.

Criminal lawyers in the public sector earn much less than their private-sector counterparts. As indicated in the graph below, the median salary for public defenders is $51,810, which is significantly lower than the national average. A criminal law associate at a prominent law firm can earn up to $115,000 in their first year, making it a significantly more lucrative career option.

Tax lawyer Salary

Tax attorneys represent a firm, organization, or individual in dealings with federal, state, and municipal tax authorities. On a daily basis, most tax lawyers advise firms and people on all elements of tax legislation. They monitor legislative changes and advise their customers on the potential effects such changes may have on their finances. Tax law involves exceptional arithmetic and accounting skills, as well as an analytical mind and the capacity to analyze critically.

Starting salaries in the field of tax law typically range between $55,000 and $83,000; lawyers who stay in the field can expect a consistent increase in annual earnings as their career continues.

Real Estate Lawyer Salary

Real estate lawyers help their clients with commercial and residential real estate in a variety of ways. So, real estate law also covers issues such as renters, neighbors, zoning, and property development.

Because real estate transactions necessitate a large number of complicated legal documents, most real estate attorneys spend a significant amount of time in the office reading and drafting contracts and other paperwork, as well as preparing consultations for their clients. A critical talent in this job is meticulous document drafting. Real estate lawyers who want to succeed in this sector must pay close attention to detail and have good analytical skills.

In addition, real estate attorneys represent their clients in court. A typical property law lawsuit would entail a landlord suing a tenant for unpaid rent. Real estate lawyers prepare court filings, gather evidence to back up their clients’ claims, and interview witnesses to ensure that their client has a good case.

According to PayScale.com, the median yearly salary for real estate attorneys in 2014 was around $90,125. Highly adept contract negotiators tend to be the greatest earners in real estate law; but, experience and location also have an impact on these attorneys’ earning potential.

Family Lawyer Salary

Family law is a vast subject. Attorneys in family law may be involved in custody arrangements, adoption, prenuptial agreements, and divorce. Many lawyers in this industry choose to specialize and become specialists in one or more areas. Divorce lawyers, for example, assist clients in dissolving a marriage and determining how to share common property. Child support, child custody, and domestic abuse are some of the other areas of specialization.

According to PayScale.com, the median yearly salary for a family lawyer is $70,828. Compensation in family law is significantly correlated with an attorney’s level of expertise and experience. Experienced family lawyers in the private sector earn the most and have a larger earning potential than their public-sector counterparts.

Personal Injury Lawyer Salary

Personal injury attorneys represent clients who allege physical or psychological suffering as a result of another party’s negligence or malfeasance. So, personal injury lawyers assist their clients in the event of an accident or injury in order to achieve justice and recompense for any losses or suffering. The great majority of these instances are covered by tort law.

Personal injury lawyers interview clients, review their cases, and identify and investigate specific points in the plaintiff’s case to assist clients in receiving compensation for any financial losses, pain, and suffering they’ve endured as a result of negligence. Personal injury law applies when a plaintiff files a claim alleging bodily or mental harm. Some of the most typical cases in this category are car accidents, occupational injuries, and “slip and falls.”

A personal injury lawyer annual salary is around $73,000 on average. Many attorneys in this area do not have a fixed annual salary because they practice on a contingency basis. This means that they are paid a percentage of any compensation settlement received by the plaintiff. As is typical in most cases, lawyers working for non-profit organizations or the government earn the least, while their colleagues in large legal firms make the most.

Civil Rights Lawyer Salary

Civil rights lawyers defend the public’s civil rights and fundamental liberties. A typical civil rights case can involve defending someone who is being discriminated against because of their ethnicity, age, gender, or religion. Cases involving alleged illegal conduct by police enforcement fall under the purview of civil rights law as well.

False arrests, disproportionate force or cruelty, and illegal searches and seizures are all grounds for civil rights claims. Many cases involve issues of human rights, social freedom, and equality. Lawyers that specialize in this area are frequently zealous about getting justice for a specific group of people or an issue. As a result, many civil rights lawyers specialize in a certain area of civil rights.

Lawyers who focus on civil rights litigation often earn less than lawyers who pursue careers in business sectors such as corporate law. The average starting salary for a civil rights lawyer is around $45,000 per year, however, exceptionally talented and experienced attorneys in this sector can make up to $200,000. The top earners are typically employed by federal government entities. Attorneys working for the federal government earn an average of $130,210 per year, while state government lawyers earn an average of $82,190 per year.

IP Lawyer Salary

Intellectual property law is a difficult topic that necessitates a thorough understanding of current laws as well as a creative and analytical mindset. Intellectual property lawyers, often known as copyright lawyers, ensure that new intellectual inventions and innovations developed by individuals have legal protection and are not infringed upon by competitors.

Music, art, design, technology, and writing are examples of disciplines in which IP attorneys may specialize. For many firms and organizations, intellectual property is the most valuable sort of property. As a result, protecting innovative advances in technology, science, and the arts is a top priority for many businesses, creating a significant demand for IP lawyers with specialties in those sectors.

Attorneys who specialize in intellectual property law often earn a median salary of $131,728 per year, according to PayScale.com.

Medical Lawyer Salary

This specialty can be a good fit for attorneys who are passionate about the law and have an interest in healthcare. Medical lawyers’ responsibilities include collaborating with health care providers to develop case theories, interviewing expert witnesses, acquiring and analyzing medical records, and filing malpractice lawsuits.

Technically, “medical law” is not a distinct legal area, but rather a synthesis of personal injury, medical malpractice, and health care law. Some medical lawyers work for hospitals and health care clinics, advising them on their legal rights and obligations and defending them in medical malpractice claims. Others focus on representing clients who want to sue health care facilities or individual health care providers.

According to Glassdoor.com, medical attorneys and health care lawyers earn an average annual salary of $150,881; medical lawyers working with specialty hospitals often earn considerably more.

Professors of Law

While this isn’t strictly an area of law and would normally need you to work as a lawyer first, being a teacher is still a fantastic alternative. Tenure versus non-tenure, the school’s reputation and ranking, and the endowment of the department are all factors that influence pay. Their salary is $125,000

Government Lawyer Salary

Government lawyers defend the city, state, or country against criminals. The average yearly salary at the local level is $91,950, $88,020 at the state level, and $139,460 at the federal level.

Immigration Lawyer Salary

Immigration law, which is commonly related to international law, focuses on the legal conditions that people must meet when preparing to immigrate to a new country, and it can also deal with challenges that refugees encounter.

Knowing Your Profession

Now that we’ve seen the lawyer salaries, it’s crucial to understand what a lawyer does and what it takes to become one before choosing if the career path is genuinely a suitable fit for you.
While lawyers make a nice livelihood, you should be sure you’re ready to put in the work to get there and picture yourself enjoying the profession—before devoting your life to any vocation, you should have a thorough understanding of what it requires.

What Is the Role of a Lawyer?

A lawyer advises and represents individuals, groups of people (such as class action lawsuits or families), businesses, government agencies, and non-governmental organizations when they encounter legal challenges or disputes on a local and international scale.

Lawyers, often known as attorneys, gather evidence and argue in court on behalf of their clients. They frequently supervise support workers, such as paralegals, legal assistants, and legal secretaries, regardless of whether they operate as individuals or as part of a corporation, or what sector of law they work in.

How Do You Get a Job as a Lawyer?

Being a lawyer is one of the most common job paths for those seeking a criminal justice degree during their undergraduate studies, but becoming a lawyer isn’t as simple as obtaining a four-year degree. Whether you want to be a personal injury lawyer, an immigration lawyer, or a criminal lawyer, all attorneys must first complete a four-year institution before enrolling in law school. The following is a summary of the total steps:

  • Undergraduate degree – Almost all law schools require a bachelor’s degree in a pre-legal discipline, such as criminal justice, or another difficult degree, usually in the social sciences, such as history, art history, political science, business, anthropology, or English.
  • Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) – In order to be admitted to law school, you must take the LSAT. According to LSAT specialists at Strategy Prep, scores can matter for up to 70% of an admission committee’s judgment.
  • Graduate JD degree – In graduate school, you will pursue the Juris Doctorate degree, commonly known as the Doctor of Jurisprudence degree, or simply JD degree.
  • Bar exam – Depending on your state and jurisdiction, you may be required to take one or more bar exams after graduation. To become a practicing lawyer, you must not only pass the bar test, but also be judged to be of good character by an admitting board.
  • Continuing education — In order to continue practicing law in your state, you must take continuing education courses every one to three years to stay current on the newest advancements in the profession.

From start to finish, the entire procedure takes at least seven years.

The payoff, on the other hand, is well worth it.

Average Lawyer Salary compared to Other High-Paying Jobs

In 2019, lawyers earned an average salary of $145,300. In 2019, comparable positions earned the following average salary: Financial Managers earned $147,530, Actuaries earned $120,970, Political Scientists earned $120,260, and Paralegals earned $55,020.

Average Salary for a Paralegal: $55,020

Every lawyer who wants to do a comprehensive job in the office should hire a paralegal. A paralegal is a critical employee who assists an attorney in the preparation of motions, summarizes reports of legal precedent, and acts as a legal assistant.

Political Scientist – average Salary $120,260

A political scientist is a lifelong learner of political theory. Political scientists use quantitative and qualitative data to determine how current policies and laws affect government, corporations, and individuals.

Average Salary for a Financial Manager: $147,530

Financial managers are in charge of supervising the finances of huge corporations, government organizations, and everything in between. They coordinate accounting and prepare financial reports, cash-flow statements, and profit estimates with their teams.

Actuary – Average Salary $120,970

Actuarial science is a discipline that measures, manages, and mitigates financial risk and uncertainty using mathematics, statistics, and financial theory. Actuaries are critical to the insurance industry, and they are increasingly finding opportunities in other industries.

Lawyer Salary FAQ’s

Do lawyers earn a good salary?

Lawyers’ salaries, of course, might vary greatly based on their experience. According to Lexology, a rookie corporate lawyer receives an average starting salary of $70,000 per year, while the most experienced corporate lawyers might earn more than $200,000. The size of a lawyer’s firm might also be a factor.

How much do lawyers get paid UK?

Salaries for newly graduated lawyers in the rest of the UK range from £27,000 to £60,000. As a newly graduated solicitor in Scotland, you may expect to earn between £30,000 and £38,000, depending on whether you work in private practice or in-house.

What GCSEs do I need to be a lawyer?

To become a lawyer, you must have a minimum of 5 GCSEs, including passes in English, Maths, and Science. These GCSEs are necessary for the majority of Law-related A-Levels, as well as the majority of Law University courses.

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