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Lawyer Salary – Top 10 Law Careers


Lawyer Salary – Top 10 Law Careers: Lawyers salary range from $120,910 to $ 200, 000 in the United States. However, earnings can vary greatly depending on where you practice and in what field.

Lawyer Salary

Who is a Lawyer?

A lawyer or attorney is a person who practices law, as an advocate, attorney at law, barrister, barrister-at-law, bar-at-law, canonist

, canon lawyer, civil law notary, counsel, counselor, solicitor, legal executive, or public servant preparing, interpreting and applying the law, but not as a paralegal or charter executive secretary.Working as a lawyer involves the practical application of abstract legal theories and knowledge to solve specific individualized problems, or to advance the interests of those who hire lawyers to perform legal services. The role of the lawyer varies greatly across different legal jurisdictions.


Lawyer Salary by Hierarchy

By hierarchy, we look at the statistics of hourly, monthly, and yearly income of lawyers in the United States based on ranks or experience.

Here is the breakdown:

Average Lawyer Salary

The national annual wage of an average lawyer is $144,230, according to the BLS, which is not far from being three times the average annual salary for all occupations, $51,960.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average pay for a lawyer is $120,910 per year.

However, these numbers are misleading, thanks to the bimodal salary distribution.

First, there’s the Cravath scale — a system of compensation that applies to most Biglaw firms based on the number of years out of law school and paid to New York lawyers working at Cravath and followed by many Biglaw firms.


Then, there’s the salary of a lawyer working in public service or as a solo lawyer. As you might have guessed, the two are considerably different.

Bimodal Salary Distribution

The average annual earnings is a significant draw for many who consider the legal profession.

It’s true that many lawyers earn excellent salaries — but you must understand the bimodal salary distribution before you can grasp how much you might make as a lawyer.


The salary distribution curve is familiar to most lawyers. It looks like this:

‣ One peak clusters around the lawyers working in Biglaw firms and earning large salaries

‣ The other peak represents those working in a small law office who earn much less


For example, the salary of a Biglaw attorney is much greater than the earnings of an assistant district attorney or real estate lawyer.

The concept of “average” salary is heavily biased and tends to overlook some of the main factors, one of which is the geographical location of employment.

According to BLS, the top five states with the highest salaries for lawyers are:


1. District of Columbia: $197,100

2. California: $179,470

3. New York: $174,060


4. Massachusetts: $169,120

5. Connecticut: $158,190

As you can see, the salary a lawyer earns depends on where they’re working, the sector they’re working in, and the size of the firm.


To consider some real-world data: The New York University class of 2020 graduates who joined law firms earned a median wage of $190,000. But grads who held judicial clerkships?

They came in well below that number at $69,927. Likewise, grads who took government jobs had a median salary of just $62,000.

Low Salary Range

Keeping the bimodal distribution scale in mind, you might consider the lower end of the lawyer’s salary scale to be around $60,000.


This is more likely to happen if you’re working in a non-metro city — the cost of living is lower, but so is the earning potential.

Public sector jobs and those working for the government tend to have a lower salary average than private-sector jobs. 

For example, the average salary for a district attorney in New York City is around $70,000. Even though the job is in a metropolitan city such as New York, the sector here plays an important role in determining the salary.


High Salary Range

You’re most likely to earn a high salary as a lawyer if you’re a big law associate.

While there is no definition of what Biglaw is, the phrase commonly refers to some of the largest law firms in the United States. This is something you have to consider before getting into law.

If you want to work for a Biglaw company, you must look at the average salary the area’s firms are offering. There’s no sense in studying the national average data because it’ll be highly irrelevant to you.


Most Biglaw firms operate on the Cravath scale. The Cravath Scale allows law firms to follow suit with one another regarding the salaries they pay to associates.

It’s popular because it helps to retain lawyers from some of the best law schools.

The salary you can earn largely depends on the standard of living and the cost of living in the respective state or city, too.  Even within the same state, the salaries may differ.


Take California for example – while it has some of the highest salary ranges for lawyers, according to BLS, it offers different salaries in three of its major metropolitan areas:

1. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara: $231,610

2. San Francisco -Oakland-Hayward: $201,920


3. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim: $180,220

There’s a nearly 25% difference separated by a few geographic miles, which can be the difference between making rent and downgrading to a lower standard of living.

However, that average salary is for the U.S. overall, which hides significant differences depending on geography, such as the state you reside in.


10 Top Highest-Paying States for Lawyers

As a matter of exposition, lawyer salary in Las Vegas is not the same as in San Francisco or Chicago, etc.

Below is a list of the top-10 highest-paying states for lawyers:

1. California average lawyer salary: $171,550


2. New York average lawyer salary: $167,110

3. Massachusetts average lawyer salary: $165,610

4. Connecticut average lawyer salary: $153,640


5. Illinois average lawyer salary: $152,980

6. Texas Average lawyer salary: $150,250

7. Colorado average lawyer salary: $147,560


8. Arizona average lawyer salary: $145,750

9. Virginia average lawyer salary: $139,180

10. New Jersey average lawyer salary: $139,020


Lawyer Salary by Field

Several law firms in the United States of America place their lawyers on different salary scales.

Nonetheless, apart from the national average for lawyers who are absorbed by the American government, other legal practitioners have different salary packages.

However, this implies that this article will not only expose you to lawyers’ remuneration, you will also know the right career path to choose as an intending lawyer in the States.


Here is a list of lawyers’ salaries as it is obtainable in different fields of specialty:

1. Corporate lawyer salary

2. Immigration lawyer salary


3. Medical lawyer salary

4. Criminal lawyer salary

5. Patent lawyer salary


6. Real estate lawyer salary

7. Constitutional lawyer salary

8. Intellectual property lawyer salary


9. Human rights lawyer salary

10. Divorce lawyer salary

Corporate Lawyer Salary

Of all lawyers, corporate lawyers make the most money, with an average salary of $174,000 reported by Above the Law.


Corporate lawyers also usually enjoy many perks, such as hefty bonuses.

In general, the bigger the law firm, the bigger the payday, (the notable exception being Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz) with some corporate lawyers earning more than seven figures.

Immigration Lawyer Salary

The report has it that the median yearly salary for lawyers practicing immigration law was $69,245. Other factors like location, experience, and employer could influence your salary as an immigration lawyer.


Immigration Salary by Location

Salaries for lawyers tend to be higher in larger cities; however, the competition for jobs and clients can be higher as a result.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, (www.bls.gov) there may be less competition for private-practice lawyers in suburban areas due to fewer large and established law firms. 

Thus, most immigration attorneys in New York City earned 7.4% more than the national average as of April 2022.


At that same time, most immigration lawyers in San Francisco who provided salary data earned 12.3% more, while those in Los Angeles made 2% less.

Salary by Years of Experience

The median annual salary of an immigration lawyer generally grows with experience.

The following figures are the salary earned for immigration lawyers with various years of work experience, as gathered by our researchers:


‣ Less than one year: $59,000

‣ 1-4 years: $65,000

‣ 5-9 years: $82,000


‣ 10-19 years: $94,000

‣ 20 or more years: $81,000

Salary by Type of Employer

As an immigration lawyer, you can work for government agencies, private law firms, and nonprofit organizations.


You may also decide to open your own legal practice. The salary earned for an immigration lawyer also depends on the employer.

Medical Lawyer Salary

Medical lawyer salary in the United States is $87,311 as of February 25, 2022, but the salary range typically falls between $77,772 and $97,376.

Like you would always know, salary ranges can vary widely depending on many important factors, including education, certifications, additional skills, the number of years you have spent in your profession.


With more online, real-time compensation data than any other website, Salary.com helps you determine your exact pay target.

Criminal Lawyer Salary

An entry-level Criminal Defense Lawyer with less than 1-year of experience can expect to earn an average total compensation (includes tips, bonus, and overtime pay) of $61,294 based on 29 salaries.

An early career Criminal Defense Lawyer with 1-4 years of experience earns an average total compensation of $73,981 based on 93 salaries.


A mid-career Criminal Defense Lawyer with 5-9 years of experience earns an average total compensation of $90,826 based on 63 salaries.

An experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer with 10-19 years of experience earns an average total compensation of $101,881 based on 49 salaries.

In their late-career (20 years and higher), employees earn an average total compensation of $103,000.


Patent Lawyer Salary

The patent lawyer is a legal practitioner who has the special qualification to represent clients to obtain patents and all matters related to patent law.

His/her salary range is from $78,000 to $1,74,000 per year. The average salary is $ 1,16,639 per year. It’s a lucrative salary.

Real Estate Lawyer Salary

An entry-level Real Estate Attorney with less than 1-year of experience can expect to earn an average total compensation (includes tips, bonus, and overtime pay) of $61,042 based on 15 salaries.


An early career Real Estate Attorney with 1-4 years of experience earns an average total compensation of $77,987 based on 62 salaries.

A mid-career Real Estate Attorney with 5-9 years of experience earns an average total compensation of $97,833 based on 26 salaries.

An experienced Real Estate Attorney with 10-19 years of experience earns an average total compensation of $101,823 based on 16 salaries.


In their late-career (20 years and higher), employees earn an average total compensation of $120,000.

Constitutional Lawyer Salary

Constitutional lawyers don’t enjoy the same high salaries as most other attorneys do, typically earning between $40,000 and $65,000 a year.

This can be attributed to several factors, the primary one being the lower general availability of clients – due to the more restricted field of operations of constitutional lawyers, they usually have a harder time seeking out appropriate clients as well.


On the other hand, this is offset by the fact that most clients who’re involved in a constitutional lawsuit are usually willing to pay higher than average.

Intellectual Property Lawyer Salary

The average Intellectual Property Lawyer’s salary is $121,288 per year, or $58.31 per hour, in the United States.

People on the lower end of that spectrum, the bottom 10% to be exact, make roughly $61,000 a year, while the top 10% makes $238,000.


As most things go, location can be critical. Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and New Hampshire provide the highest Intellectual Property Lawyer salaries.

Human Right Lawyer Salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t provide a specific human rights lawyer salary. However, it does state that in 2019, the median salary for all lawyers was $122,960.

The highest 10% of a human rights lawyer’s salary is over $208,000 annually, while those in the lowest 10% earned $59,670 or less.


Divorce Lawyer Salary

A family practice divorce lawyer can expect to earn $70,000 in his first year, depending on his state, the size of the firm, and the demand for his services, according to Payscale.

The biggest increase in family lawyer salary comes after 10 years in the industry, where the jump is from $77,000 to $129,000.

Becoming a partner in a firm, profit-sharing, or owning your own firm adds to the expected income.


Frequently Asked Questions

 Below are frequently asked questions about lawyer salary:

How do U.S. Lawyers Get Paid?

It depends on the area of practice. A lawyer retained by an insurance company to represent the defendant in a personal injury case (that includes but is not limited to workers’ compensation, medical malpractice, and racial/age/sex/employment discrimination) will charge by the hour.


Some companies have in-house legal counsel who is paid salaries, but it’s been my experience that in-house counsel tends to be paper-pushers and doesn’t actually take cases to trial.

A lawyer who represents a personal-injury plaintiff will almost always work on a contingent-fee basis, i.e., no verdict or settlement, no fee.

A criminal defense lawyer (and that’s their preferred term, they hate to be called criminal lawyers!) will charge by the hour and ask for a hefty retainer in cash because it’s foolish to take a personal check as payment. Your client is a criminal–can you afford to trust that the check won’t bounce?


Are Lawyers in the Top 10 Highest-paying Jobs?

According to Forbes, lawyers are number 7 in the top 10. The following are the top 10 highest paying in-demand jobs in America.

1. Physician, average base salary: $212,000, job openings: 8,000.


2. Pharmacy manager, average base salary: $131,000, job openings: 1,800.

3. Software architect, average base salary: $131,000, job openings: 3,200.

4. Software development manager, average base salary: $124,000, job openings: 2,200.


5. Finance manager, average base salary: $124,000, job openings: 9,200.

6. Solutions architect, average base salary: $122,000, job openings: 3,500.

7. Lawyer, average base salary: $120,000, job openings: 5,500.


8. Analytics manager, average base salary: $116,000, job openings: 1,400.

9. IT manager, average base salary: $116,000, job openings: 1,400.

10. Tax manager, average base salary: $115,000, job openings: 3,600.


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