Attorneys play a crucial function in the legal system. In order to counsel and defend their clients in court, they analyze intricate laws and regulations. With a typical yearly salary of $127,990, it’s one of the highest-paying professions outside of medicine, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Even though being a lawyer is still a common professional choice, the annual salary of lawyers varies greatly based on a variety of criteria.
How Much Does the Average Lawyer Make?
Though prospective law students may find the BLS wage data alluring, keep in mind that the median salary for the field is $127,990. While many lawyers can and do make six figures, not all lawyers do.
The typical yearly wage for attorneys in the poorest 10% of earners is $61,400. Conversely, the highest-paid attorneys make a median of over $208,000 each year.
Your chosen industry and level of experience play a significant role in determining your expected salary if you’re interested in becoming a lawyer but are unaware of what to anticipate.
Public sector attorneys, whether employed by the government or a nonprofit, typically make less money than their private sector counterparts.
The income of lawyers in the private sector may also vary based on whether they work for a big law firm or independently.
For example, a National Association for Law Placement (NALP) survey indicates that the median annual compensation of an entry-level public defender is $59,700. With eleven to fifteen years of experience, the same position might pay $100,500.
In contrast, the median base wage of a first-year associate working in the private sector is $165,000 per year. In the private sector, salaries can differ based on the size of the legal business. The same NALP poll indicates that a first-year associate at a firm with over 700 lawyers can make a median compensation of $190,000.
Best Paying Specialties for Lawyers
A lawyer’s income can also be influenced by the kind of law they practice, in addition to their seniority and firm size. After obtaining the required certificates, you can pursue a wide range of specializations, with higher compensation associated with practicing in a specialized field.
Based on data from ZipRecruiter, the following are some of the highest-paying specializations and the range of their yearly salaries:
- Executive attorney: $89,000 to $232,500
- Medical lawyer: $79,000 to $193,500
- Patent lawyer: $179,000 to $195,500
- Business attorney: $111,000 to $174,500
- Employment lawyer: between $110,000 and $152,000
- Attorney on contract: $72,500 to $152,500
- Tax lawyer: $143,500 to $144,000
- Attorney for the environment: $100,000 to $134,500
Highest Paying Locations for Lawyers
Like in other professions, the annual salary of lawyers is influenced by one’s place of residence. The ABA identified the largest cities that pay attorneys the highest salaries by using BLS statistics. Five locations on the list of the top 10 highest-paying places for lawyers were in California, while four were on the east coast.
The top ten highest-paying places in the nation are listed below:
- San Jose, CA: $231,200
- San Francisco, CA: $191,460
- Washington, DC: $186,610
- New York, NY: $183,870
- Los Angeles, CA: $177,550
- Boston, MA: $171,660
- Bridgeport, CT: $171,100
- San Diego, CA: $165,480
- Midland, MI: $164,430
- Oxnard, CA: $163,560
How to Manage Lawyer School Debt
Although law school is expensive, the six-figure price tag is comparable to other professions that demand a high level of professional education.
Over 95% of law school students reported taking out a student loan, according to an ABA study conducted in 2020. The majority of the respondents’ $164,742 in student loan debt came from their law school study when they graduated with their degrees.
If You’re Scouting Lawyer Schools
If you’re still unsure about your legal program, attending a public, in-state law school will enable you to pay less for tuition while pursuing your degree.
Additionally, managing your spending during law school can be achieved by keeping your living expenses to a minimum. This could entail finding a roommate to split the expense of accommodation and moving into a more reasonably priced neighborhood close to the school.
If You’re Already Employed
It’s worthwhile to inquire about educational perks from your employer if you are employed while pursuing your legal degree or if you have already earned your J.D. and are in the workforce.
Certain employers provide aid with student loan repayment or tuition reimbursement, which can help you reduce your debt from law school more quickly.Furthermore, there are numerous programs available to lawyers that forgive student loans.
Most demand you to work as a public servant or with underprivileged populations. Public defenders and lawyers employed by other governmental or charitable institutions may fall under this category.
Once you have made 120 qualifying payments against your obligation, the eligible federal loan balance. You must be employed full-time by an approved company throughout this repayment period, and you must follow a qualifying repayment plan.
Is a Lawyer Degree Worth It?
Even though obtaining a law degree is expensive up front, it could be beneficial to attend law school if your future earning potential as an attorney justifies the expense of your study.
Take into account every factor influencing your overall law school expenses and possible return on investment while determining whether law school is right for you.
This covers your choice of school, your planned career path, your chosen specialization (if any), and whether you want to work in the public or private sector.Read more