What Types of Lawyers Are the Highest Paid?

Many people assume that the highest-paid lawyers are corporate lawyers. While corporate lawyers can earn millions of dollars, personal injury lawyers, criminal lawyers, and lawyers in other areas of law can also earn millions of dollars. 

It may surprise you to learn that the average salary for lawyers in the United States during 2019 was $122,960 per year. The American Bar Association states that lawyers earn an average of $144,230 per year.

The fact is that most attorneys earn a modest living. Their passion for the law and helping people in need are the things that drive them to work in the legal field.

Attorneys have a positive job outlook, but the future growth in wages is about the same as other comparable industries. Therefore, most attorneys expect to earn somewhere between the low end of the average salary for attorneys ($59,670) to the high end of the average salary ($208,000) for the next ten years. 

What Impacts the Salary for Lawyers?

Numerous factors impact the salary a lawyer might earn. Some of the common factors that affect a lawyer’s salary include:

  • The number of years the attorney has been in practice
  • The law school where the attorney attended
  • The type of law the lawyer chooses to practice
  • Whether the attorney chooses private practice or to work in the public sector
  • The geographical location where the attorney practices
  • Any specialized skills, education, or certifications the attorney holds
  • Whether the attorney chooses to open his own practice or join a large law firm

Other factors can affect how much an attorney might earn when starting a career or throughout the attorney’s career. As with all other occupations, a person’s health, gender, age, and other factors impact their salary.

What Types of Law Pay the Most for Attorneys?

Attorneys who choose to practice in areas of law that require specialized knowledge of specific laws can earn more than attorneys who practice in other areas of law. However, a specific area of law does not guarantee that an attorney will earn more than lawyers working in areas of law that are in high demand.

For example, a personal injury lawyer could earn more than an attorney working in the oil industry. It depends on all of the factors that impact an attorney’s salary how much an attorney can earn.

With that in mind, below are descriptions of some areas of law and how much an attorney might earn if he chooses to practice in that area of law.

Corporate Law

Lawyers who work for corporations can earn millions of dollars as a general counsel. The general counsel for a corporation handles everything from contracts and employment law to corporate structure, intellectual law, and litigation. In many cases, a general counsel oversees other attorneys and outside counsel.

Criminal Law

Lawyers practicing criminal law represent individuals under investigation for a crime or who have been arrested for a crime. There is room for a huge difference in salaries depending on the type of criminal cases the attorney handles. For example, an attorney handling murder cases is likely to earn more than an attorney who handles petty theft and traffic tickets.

Personal Injury

Personal injury covers a wide variety of cases. It includes almost any case that involves a person injured because of another party’s negligence, errors, or wrongdoing. It also covers cases in which another person wrongfully kills a person. 

Personal injury cases can include, but are not limited to:

A personal injury lawyer’s salary is often based on how much money the attorney recovers for an accident victim. Most personal injury lawyers accept cases on a contingency fee basis. They are paid a percentage of the amount they recover for their clients.

Bankruptcy Law

Attorneys who handle bankruptcy matters assist individuals and companies in filing for bankruptcy relief. They may also work with creditors to file claims in bankruptcy cases. Because bankruptcy law is a specialized area of law, bankruptcy attorneys working with large Chapter 11 corporate cases can earn large salaries.

However, bankruptcy lawyers who work with average individuals who need bankruptcy assistance often earn an income within the average range for most attorneys.

Family Law 

Family law is another area of law that is in high demand. It covers all matters related to divorce, including custody, property division, and domestic support. Family law also includes martial agreements and paternity questions.

As with other areas of law, many family lawyers can earn within the average salary range. Lawyers who handle high-net-worth divorces or high-profile cases may earn much higher salaries.

The Bottom Line – Attorneys Salaries Vary Greatly

The salaries lawyers earn vary greatly. There are too many factors to consider to estimate how much an attorney might earn. Anyone considering a career as an attorney can review the government statistics for lawyers’ salaries, including lawyers practicing in specific areas.

As with all other careers, hard work and dedication are two of the most important factors that indicate earning potential.