Various statistics regarding a lawyer’s average annual salary come from the Bureau of Labor. They collect data for a range of jobs and collect it in the Occupational Outlook Handbook.
Amongst their data points, there was the job outlook that the employment of lawyers was set to increase by 10% between 2021 and 2031.
The handbook also detailed that the median annual wage for a lawyer was $127,990 back in 2021 but there is a range of factors that goes into creating that annual wage.
In this guide, we will look at how much do lawyers make. We will also detail the disparity between cities and states, the importance of experience for a lawyer, and the highest-paying areas of law.
The Disparity Between Cities And States
Many of the highest-paid lawyers are based in some of the biggest cities in America. The city that had the fourth-highest salary for lawyers was New York City with an average of $183,870.
That should not be too surprising but three cities in California were featured in the top five highest-paying cities.
These included San Jose ($231,200), San Francisco ($191,460, and Los Angeles (177,550) with the other city in the top five being Washington DC ($186,610).
While three of the top five highest-paying cities for lawyers were in California, the state ranked third with $176,610.
The two states that had more higher-paid lawyers on average were the District of Columbia ($198,820) and New York ($179,060). Rounding out the top five were two more northeastern states; Massachusetts ($167,980) and New Jersey ($153,800).
How Experience Matters?
Experience matters in pretty much every job and it is considered paramount for a lawyer. For someone hoping to be a trainee lawyer, legal work experience is an important factor that law firms seek.
That real-world experience and interest in legal matters is crucial, as is the range of areas of law the applicant has been involved in. However, as a lawyer goes further on into their career they should have selected their specialisms and spent years at them.
That is largely why you tend to find that the most highly-paid and expensive lawyers are those that have the most experience.
By focusing on only a few select areas of law, the more experienced lawyers should prove more effective, which should mean they have more chance of winning a case.
The justice system is known for being difficult to navigate so finding a lawyer that has been there and done it should be reassuring, but it will come with a price tag.
A more experienced lawyer is likely to command a higher salary simply because of their track record and the outcome they achieve in their cases. An inexperienced lawyer may not have taken a case to trial in court and they could be exposed on their first go.
A skilled and experienced lawyer will be confident enough to know the nuances of a trial case and have a better chance of winning. That means crafting jury instructions, persuading a jury and a judge, as well as using the rules of evidence to the best of their ability.
The Highest Paying Areas Of Law
On average, the highest-paid lawyers by their job are Patent Attorneys at $143,492 closely followed by Corporate Attorneys at $137,364. Then there are Tax Attorneys at $134,322, Family Lawyers at $128,809, and Bankruptcy Lawyers at $125,048.
You can also expect an Intellectual Property Attorney to be well-paid at a national average salary of $119,583 per year while a Real Estate Attorney earns $105,938 per year.
If you take the city of Houston, Texas as an example, there are clearly some areas of law that their lawyers earn more practicing than others.
If you were a Securities Lawyer, you could expect to be paid an annual salary of $139,813 which is an hourly rate of $67.22. A Family Lawyer can expect an annual salary of $109,539 which is around the average lawyer salary ($109,955) in the city.
Tech Lawyers in the city on average earn $101,606 a year, for Data Protection Lawyers, that amount is $99,712 while a Technology Lawyer is paid around $95,263 a year.
The gap between the best-paid quarter of lawyers and the lowest-paid quarter of lawyers is significant. In the latest round of statistics, the lowest-paid 25% made $81,620 while the best-paid made $194,580.
There are plenty of factors to explain that sizable gap including where the lawyers are based, how experienced they are, and what area of law they specialize in.
Even considering those figures, training in law is still popular and the sector is set to grow by 10% in the next decade.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do Lawyers That Work In Law Firms Or Who Own Their Private Practice Make More Money?
While a lawyer that owns their own private practice has more control over the cases they take on, that does not necessarily mean that they earn more money.
Those lawyers who practice law in a law firm tend to earn more money than those who own their private practice. Whether they work in a private practice or a law firm, they will almost certainly have a stressful job.
If Lawyers Earn So Much Money, Is It True That Their Job Is Considered Difficult?
While it may seem that lawyers earn too much money, they command such a large annual salary because their job is difficult. It can be incredibly stressful balancing a caseload and trying to win each one.
There are only so many hours in each day and many attorneys work long hours. They also have to deal with tricky clients who have a seemingly ever-increasing list of daily demands.