What Is the Average Salary of a Lawyer?

The average salary of a lawyer depends on what kind of law they practice and where they work, with experienced attorneys earning a higher income due to years of practice.

Law students can gain an idea of their earning potential by looking at what their peers in their chosen field are making; however, this doesn’t give an accurate representation of typical salaries since many factors affect salaries of lawyers.

Class size can have an enormous effect on earnings. According to The National Jurist, New York University class of 2020 graduates who went on to work at Big Law firms reported an impressive median salary of $190,000. This far outshone those who took up judicial clerkships (median salary: $63,000) or government jobs (62,000).

Salaries for attorneys vary significantly by state and city. California, Massachusetts and New York boast the highest-paying attorneys, while Montana Idaho and Wyoming saw significant salary growth during the past five years.

Your type of law and employer both play a part in determining your salary. Trial lawyers typically make the highest salaries, followed by corporate and real estate attorneys and specialty practitioners such as patent or intellectual property lawyers.

Salary in any field can vary considerably; criminal defense and civil rights attorneys generally make less than other lawyers in those fields, while those specializing in medical malpractice, personal injury or labor law could make significantly more.

First-year associates working at firms with 50 or more lawyers typically make an average annual salary of approximately $90,00,000. This amount is significantly less than what first-year associates at firms with 75+ attorneys typically make.

As your experience increases, so will your salary. Senior associates at large law firms typically start at approximately $130,000 due to many large firms using the Cravath scale that sets a minimum pay rate for junior lawyers – this ensures top firms remain competitive for top talent.

At its core, determining an average salary of a lawyer depends on their type of law practiced, where they work, and their financial commitment. If you want to make six figures quickly through Big Law or PSLF, go into Big Law; otherwise consider public interest law or PSLF for smaller markets that might offer better opportunities in terms of pay and work/life balance. Overall though, legal careers are rewarding and lucrative opportunities that offer enormous potential rewards and financial security for professionals in these careers.

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