Lawyer Salary

There are a wide range of careers a law degree can lead to, and thus a wide range of salaries lawyers can make.  A lawyer’s salary varies by location in addition to career path.  According to U.S. News & World Report, in 2017, lawyers made a median salary of $119,250.  In this article, we will outline lawyer salaries by field of work.

Immigration lawyers are those lawyers who help people attain citizenship, or help people who are having issues working to staying in the United States.  They help their clients with preparing immigration paperwork appropriately, avoiding delays, and overall simplifying the immigrations processes.  The main job of immigration lawyers is to ensure their clients road to citizenship or work in the United States is not held up by technicalities on their paperwork submissions. According to Practice Panther, immigration lawyers average $62,250 salary per year, which is on the lower end of lawyer salaries.

Civil rights lawyers are those who are concerned with constitutional disputes, civil liberties, discrimination, and overall human rights.  Oftentimes, civil rights lawyers spend their time researching cases, arguing in court, and negotiating settlements for their clients.  Civil rights lawyers are also responsible for filing appeals in both the federal and state courts.  These lawyers typically have an average starting salary of $45,000 per year, which climbs to an average of $69,000 per year once they are more seasoned according to Practice Panther.

Family and divorce lawyers deal with everything from child custody, to adoption, to ending a marriage.  Many family and divorce lawyers work with families to determine how to divide property, finding appropriate child custody, and they are even involved in cases of domestic abuse.  Most divorce cases are settled before they reach trial.  However, some cases do make it all the way to trial, and it is the job of family and divorce lawyers to represent their clients in court.  According to Practice Panther, family and divorce lawyers make an average salary of $71,336 per year.

Personal injury lawyers are those who represent people who have been injured in some capacity, either by another person, or by a corporation.  These types of injury can include psychological damage in the workplace, physical injury from a car accident, or a slip and fall accident at work.  Personal injury lawyers typically try to get compensation for their clients to cover lost income, medical expenses, psychological and emotional distress, and overall pain and suffering.  They do this by negotiating with insurance companies and writing demand letters once the claim is investigated.  If the insurance company refuses to pay out, personal injury lawyers can file a complaint against the insurance company and potentially represent the client at trial.  Personal injury lawyers make an average salary of $73,000 per year, which typically comes from fees after winning a settlement.  For this reason, most personal injury lawyers carefully review each case before deciding to take on a client.

Criminal defense lawyers are those who defend both individuals and companies involved in criminal legal proceedings.  There are different types of criminal defense lawyers.  Some are public defenders, who are assigned to a case and paid by the public defenders office.  Others are hired specifically by private firms.  The pay of these types of lawyers has the potential to vary greatly, with public defenders making less than those in the private sector.  Defense law requires the lawyer to meet with the client and discuss details of the case.  They then proceed to investigate the case further by questioning the police, securing expert witnesses, and even reviewing the prosecutions case.  Criminal defense lawyers are responsible for helping with the jury selection process.  In some cases, criminal defense stops at the plea bargain if it is accepted.  However, the case can proceed to trial, in which case the criminal defense lawyer would represent the client.  Whether through plea bargain or trial, the client will eventually reach the sentencing stage.  At this stage, the criminal defense lawyer will aim to help lessen the punishment for the client.  According to Practice Panther, criminal defense lawyers make an average salary of $78,500.  However, due to the difference between private and public sector, there is a wide salary range for criminal defense lawyers.  According to PayScale, this can range from $46,000 per year to $197,000 per year.

The term corporate lawyer is a very broad term.  However, corporate lawyer typically refers to those who work for one company, where they counsel clients, help with negotiations, review contracts for mergers and acquisitions, and help businesses with financial information.  The main role of a corporate lawyer is to make sure a company is abiding by the law in all of its dealings.  Corporate lawyers typically have knowledge of a broad range of laws such as contact law and tax law to name a couple.  Corporate lawyers are beneficial to their clients because their clients have a “one stop shop” type access when it comes to legal needs.  According to Practice Panther, the average corporate lawyer salary is $98,244 per year.  PayScale lists corporate lawyers as having an average range of $65,000 being the low end and $175,000 being the high end.  Much of a corporate lawyers salary is determined by the company they are employed by and the state in which they work.

Bankrupty lawyers help their clients lower their debt while in the process of filing for bankruptcy.  Bankruptcy can be a very confusing and detail oriented process, which is why most people seek the help of a bankruptcy lawyer.  Most bankruptcy lawyers specialize in one of two types of bankruptcy law. Consumer bankruptcy involves representing individuals or creditors in Chapter 13 cases.  Commercial bankruptcy involves representing a debtor or creditor in Chapter 7 or 11 cases.  Bankruptcy lawyers help their clients determine if bankruptcy is the best course of action, then help determine which chapter of bankruptcy is best to file under.  This process includes collecting tax returns, paycheck stubs, credit reports, bank statements, and so on.  Practice Partner states the average salary of a bankruptcy lawyer is $113,000 per year.

Real estate lawyers are those who handle the transactions regarding property.  Real estate lawyers help their clients with purchase agreements, mortgage documents, title documents, and transfer documents.  They are also equipped to handle closings.  Real estate lawyers do engage in litigation when transactions do not proceed as planned, which involves negotiation and trying to work out settlements.  According to Practice Panther, real estate lawyers make an average of $118,000 per year.

Healthcare lawyers cover a wide range of interests that range from representing hospitals and doctors, to representing insurance companies, to representing patients.  Healthcare lawyers must be familiar with medical law in addition to ethical and professional conduct in the medical arena.  Medical laws are always changing.  Therefore, it is to the benefit of medical companies to keep a well versed healthcare lawyer on staff.   If patients feel they have been provided poor or incorrect treatment, it is advisable to hire a healthcare attorney to deal with the parties assumed to be at fault.  Healthcare lawyers tend to be well versed in everything from personal injury law, to medical law, to be able to adequately serve their clients.  On average, healthcare lawyers make $146,590 per year.  However, that number is subject to wide fluctuations depending on the type of client a healthcare lawyer is working for.

Intellectual property lawyers have one of the highest starting salaries according to Practice Panther, at $155,037 per year.  These lawyers typically deal with patents, copyright and trademark law, intellectual property law, and company openings.  Intellectual property law exists to entice people to develop works that will benefit society.  Patents allow inventors to either use a product in the marketplace, or to sell that right in order to profit.  Trademarks help protect symbols, names, and/or slogans used to identify a good, service, or company.  Copyrights are mainly used to protect artistic works such as music, movies, writings, or architecture.  Intellectual property lawyers cover a wide range of law in the development space.  They are necessary to ensure proper credit is awarded to the source of the intellectual property.

All in all, there is a wide range of career paths a lawyer can choose from.  While there are average salaries listed, most salaries for lawyers will vary widely depending on what field the lawyer works in, the state they are practicing in, and whether the lawyer is in private or public practice.  Across all lawyers, those in private practice will tend to make a higher salary than those in public practice.  In addition, lawyer salary typically increases as length of career increases.  Those lawyers will more experience will typically get paid more than those with less experience all else being equal.  Many aspects of life, whether it be buying real estate, undergoing a botched medical procedure, developing a new invention, or going through a divorce, require legal counsel.  Lawyers exist to ensure their clients are fully covered, are receiving the best possible legal outcome, and to ensure they are fully abiding by the law.

Resource: Most Affordable Law Schools