Lawyer Salary

Many students considering law school are curious about lawyer salaries. The process to become a lawyer can be very long and strenuous. 

Rest assured, lawyers are compensated very well for all the hard work they put in to become licensed to practice. 

The average lawyer salary in 2021 is $84,771. Read below to find out different lawyer salaries based on the type of law practiced.

Summary: Find out what the average lawyer salary is based on what type of law you will be working in.

While there are certainly lawyers out there who practice general law, many lawyers will specialize in a certain area and become an expert in that subject.

People who specialize in specific areas of law will be compensated nicely and have a higher income when compared to the average lawyer salary of $84,771.

All lawyers will be required to pass the LSAT exam in order to get into an ABA accredited law school - make sure you are prepared to take the LSAT exam by checking out our reviews of the best LSAT prep courses

Types of Lawyers and Lawyer Salaries

Average Salary for different types of lawyers

Salary Breakdown for Different Types of Lawyers

Lawyer Salary Breakdown

Corporate Lawyer

A corporate lawyer is a lawyer who works with a business or corporation. The sole purpose of a corporate lawyer is to serve the best interests of the business or corporation in which they are working for. A corporate lawyer should have business acumen as they may be asked to help make business decisions from time to time.

Companies may have one corporate lawyer on staff or may have multiple corporate lawyers on staff – with each one specializing in different aspects of the company. Various types of companies require corporate lawyers but some big industries that require corporate lawyers include banks, insurance companies, communications companies, tech companies, and car companies. While corporate lawyers should have a background in business, they should also be comfortable dealing with mergers and acquisitions, trademarks, and employment issues.

Earnings Percentile Earnings
10% 60,000
50% (Average) 111,026
90% 206,000

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Criminal Defense Lawyer

A criminal defense lawyer is in charge of representing defendants in court. Criminal defense lawyers have to deal with a lot of different tasks like arraignments, pretrial hearings, trials, and sentencing hearings. Criminal defense lawyers will make numerous attempts to settle cases outside of the court, but sometimes trials will be required.

Criminal defense lawyers will be working on many cases at once and each case will be on its own timeline. Criminal defense lawyers will be working on many things at once like talking to witnesses, finding new evidence, and researching similar cases. A lot of times, a criminal defense lawyer will have a support staff helping them out. Their support staff may consist of paralegals, private investigators, and other lawyers.

Earnings Percentile Earnings
10% 49,000
50% (Average) 80,609
90% 182,000

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Family Lawyer

A family law lawyer is someone with handles divorces and specializes in civil law. Family law lawyers often manage divorces in the United States, which are governed by state laws instead of federal laws. A family lawyer must be familiar with laws in the specific states they are licensed to practice in. Depending on how the divorce was filed, fault or no-fault, it can take 3 to 12 months to finalize the divorce.

Being a family lawyer can be very taxing emotionally as divorces and other family matters can be messy sometimes. A family law lawyer will usually deal with a bunch of different aspects. Some of these aspects include marriage annulment, child support, child custody, child visitation rights, adoption, and division of assets and debts. Some key skills a family law lawyer should have include being non-bias, having good interpersonal skills, and being a good listener.

Earnings Percentile Earnings
10% 46,000
50% (Average) 87,636
90% 170,000

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Immigration Lawyer

An immigration lawyer is a unique type of lawyer. An immigration lawyer works with foreign citizens and immigrants who must interact with United States immigration authorities. An immigration attorney will spend significantly less time in court compared to other types of lawyers. The main goal of an immigration lawyer is to serve as a middleman for foreign citizens and U.S. immigration authorities.

Immigration lawyers will help their clients deal with visa applications, green cards, citizenship and naturalization issues, deportation issues, and employment issues. An immigration lawyer may spend time with immigration judges if their client is facing an immigration hearing. Immigration lawyers may also have to deal with instances in which immigration and criminal law cross paths.

Earnings Percentile Earnings
10% 47,000
50% (Average) 67,487
90% 108,000

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Intellectual Property Lawyer

Intellectual property is a category of property that includes intangible creations by specific people or businesses. Intellectual property can take years of development and millions of dollars, so it is important to keep ownership of your property once you take it to market. This is where an intellectual property lawyer comes in.

An intellectual property (IP) lawyer will spend a lot of time completing paperwork and necessary documents preparing an idea or product to be filed for a patent or trademark. An intellectual property lawyer may also have to deal with patent or trademark infringement. This is when someone else is using your intellectual property without the rights to do so. An IP lawyer may compose a cease and desist letter or may take the person or company who infringed on a patent to court.

Earnings Percentile Earnings
10% 60,000
50% (Average) 128,452
90% 239,000

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Lawyer with Law Firm

A law firm is usually run by one or more lawyers. The main purpose of a law firm is to advise clients on various legal rights and responsibilities. Partners are at the top of a law firm and are joint owners and business directors of the law firm. Next in line are associates – these are lawyer employees of the firm who may become partners one day. After associates come the paralegals. Paralegals are not lawyers but assist lawyers with various legal matters.

Law firms may specialize in one area of law like personal injury or family law. Law firms may also have many different types of lawyers on staff that each specialize in a different type of law. A lawyer with a law firm can make very good money and has the ability to climb the ladder and become a partner in the firm after years of service.

Earnings Percentile Earnings
10% 53,000
50% (Average) 100,529
90% 191,000

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Regulatory Lawyer

Regulatory lawyers assist clients in dealing with complex issues, usually involving the government. Companies face many regulatory issues while doing business and this is where a regulatory lawyer comes in. A regulatory lawyer may assist a client with various laws, rules, regulations, and permits. Companies that deal with a lot of regulation issues will most likely have a regulatory lawyer on retainer.

Regulatory lawyers will most likely have some background in the field in which they are advising clients on. Regulatory issues can be very complex, so it is important to be familiar with the industry and rules. Some industries that regulatory lawyers may specialize in consist of environmental protection, tax issues, and land use. As well as specializing in specific industries, regulatory lawyers may also specialize within different parts of the government – local, state, and federal.

Earnings Percentile Earnings
10% 60,000
50% (Average) 105,600
90% 164,000

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Senior Corporate Lawyer

A senior corporate lawyer will have the same responsibilities listed above. However, a senior corporate lawyer may be asked to be more involved in business decisions. A senior corporate lawyer may have a better understanding of the corporate structure of the company and may be in a better position to assist in the decision-making process of the company.

A senior corporate lawyer will provide legal advice on various topics like contracts, collective bargaining, and other legal matters. A senior corporate lawyer who works in-house will most likely be more invested in the well-being of the business as they are a direct employee of the firm.

Earnings Percentile Earnings
10% 77,000
50% (Average) 146,000
90% 231,000

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Trial Lawyer

A trial lawyer is responsible for representing their client in the court of law. A trial lawyer is what many people see when they watch tv shows or movies portraying lawyers in a courtroom setting. However, a trial lawyer has many other responsibilities other than arguing in a courtroom. A trial lawyer will review files, interview witnesses, request documents, and fill out numerous court documents.

With trials being so expensive, a trial lawyer may seek to settle a case outside the courtroom – this can be for both criminal and civil cases and is referred to arbitration, mitigation, or mediation. Trial lawyers often have backgrounds in civil law and criminal law, as well as civil and criminal procedure. Trial lawyers must remain up to date on changing laws in order to best help their clients.

Earnings Percentile Earnings
10% 58,000
50% (Average) 103,712
90% 206,000

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Lawyer Salary FAQs

What kind of lawyers make the most money?

We looked at 10 different types of lawyers and their salaries. According to our findings, senior corporate lawyers have the best median lawyer salary. IP lawyers had the highest earning potential with the 90th percentile earning $239,000.

How much money does a lawyer make in 2020?

A general lawyer in 2020 makes $84,771. However, different types of lawyers have different salaries. The average trial lawyer makes $103,712 while the average corporate lawyer makes $111,026. Check out the table and graph above for more information.

Is it worth it to go to law school?

Law school is very expensive and takes a lot of time and effort to complete. However, lawyers are compensated very well for their services. The average lawyers makes $84,771 a year. Lawyers who specialize in a certain type of law are usually compensated even better.

All data was collected from Payscale.

Last Updated: 9/21/2021

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