What Type of Lawyer Makes the Most Money? One reason young people decide to join the legal profession is to make a fortune. All lawyers make lots of money. Is this statement true? Or is it a common myth? What type of lawyer will make the most money in 2023, according to the World Report?
The fact is that a lawyer can make different amounts of money depending on their specialty. Also, those practicing law for years know that many other factors can affect how much money one makes.
What Type of Lawyer Makes the Most Money?
Careers in law encompass a wide range of roles for attorneys and lawyers, from jobs in corporate and business law to family and medical law. Additionally, there are several career fields in law that provide higher salaries than others. Learning about high-paying jobs for lawyers can help you determine which career path is right for you.
In this article, we explore 11 of the highest-paying lawyers’ jobs, including their primary duties and national average salaries.
Types Of Lawyers That Make the Most Money
Different specialties have different median incomes. There’s a wide range of data collected for different types of lawyers and salaries. Keep in mind that the variables noted above will make a difference in each case.
Some of the highest-paid lawyers are:
Average Salary: $156,841 per year
Primary Duties: Patent attorneys deal with the processes and legal implications surrounding patenting intellectual property. Typically, patent attorneys help inventors prepare, file, and submit their patent applications. If another individual or entity tries to infringe upon a patent attorney’s client’s patent, the attorney assists the client in raising a lawsuit against them.
Average Salary: $150,881 annually
Primary Duties: Corporate attorneys work with and represent large companies and organizations. They’re responsible for drafting legal documents, structuring transactions, negotiating business deals, and ensuring agreement provisions, policies, and legal compliance are unambiguous and consistent.
Corporate attorneys ensure that companies’ operations comply with related laws and regulations and that the implementation of certain business practices is within legal parameters.
Average Salary: $140,972 per year
Primary Duties: IP is short for intellectual Property. These are the second highest-paid attorneys in most cases. There are three separate categories within intellectual property law that they must be well-versed in and aware of. These are patents, trademarks, and copyrights. There is a high earning potential for intellectual property lawyers because there are times when the facts regarding intellectual property are hard to dissect and prove evidentially.
Average Salary: $137,364 per year
Primary Duties: Corporate lawyers help corporations start, manage, run, and grow their businesses. Corporate lawyers also help corporations purchase, merge with another business, or sell the company. They can work on an in-house legal team at the corporation or in a private law firm that advises corporations.
Average salary: $135,713 per year
Primary Duties: Employment lawyers represent employees or employers regarding employment laws. They might help employers stay compliant with the latest labor and employment laws. Or they might help employers assert their legal rights to a fair wage and fair treatment at work.
Oil And Gas Attorneys
Average Salary: $135,577 per year
Primary Duties: Oil and gas attorneys can make excellent career choices, especially for those with prior regulated industry experience. Oil and gas professionals in law advise on the environmental, business, or economic consequences of pursuing particular corporate activities so clients can eliminate potential hazards and maximize profits.
Average Salary: $134,322 per year
Primary Duties: These attorneys work with both individuals and businesses to solve tax issues. They help with estate planning, and even with suing the Internal Revenue Service. They’re often essential consultants when someone is starting a business or when contracts must be drafted.
Average Salary: $128,809 per year
Primary Duties: Family lawyers work on child custody, divorce, social services, adoption, and tax and finance law cases. They often meet with and interview clients, collect documentation from individuals involved in domestic disputes, and organize paperwork and documents in divorce or child custody cases. Family lawyers may also go to court and argue cases before a judge.
Average Salary: $125,048 per year
Primary Duties: 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.
Intellectual Property Attorney
Average Salary: $119,583 per year
Primary Duties: Intellectual property lawyers specialize in patents, trademarks, and copyrights. The high earning potential in this field arises because of the explosive growth of intellectual property.
These attorneys practice in a fast-paced field, requiring them to keep up with rapidly evolving laws and procedures. They work in large firms or in-house for big tech and big pharma, on the front of protecting intellectual property from infringement.
What Factors Influence the Salaries of Attorneys?
Even within their specialties, attorneys can make different amounts of money. The income of an attorney depends on numerous factors, including:
Not all law schools are equal, and the potential for higher earnings comes with more prestigious schools, although that isn’t always the case. Some law students are better off spending half as much on school and starting their careers with less student debt. It can be a trade-off because it only matters who you work for and how well you perform.
Law Firm Size
Some lawyers never join a firm and instead, go into solo practice. While this allows the most personal freedom, it often results in lower pay. Other lawyers choose to work for big law firms, some of which may employ hundreds of lawyers around the country or the globe.
Lawyers who practice in major metropolitan areas tend to make more money than those practicing in small towns and rural communities.
Sector Of Employment
Private-sector lawyers often earn salaries different from public-sector lawyers, such as those employed by federal, state, and municipal government agencies. To make government jobs more attractive to applicants from the private sector, the federal government aims to revise the salary ranges for positions in the General Service (GS) classification to ensure they are competitive with private-sector salaries.
Lawyers are paid differently based on the clients they represent. Plaintiffs’ attorneys can earn hourly rates, retainers, and contingency fees if they represent parties that initiate lawsuits. Contingency fees are a percentage of the proceeds of a lawsuit or settlement that a lawyer collects on behalf of his or her clients.
They usually range from 25 to 40 percent. As in the case of plaintiffs, lawyers who represent defendants who are being sued may be paid by hourly rate, retainer, or a combination of the two.
Skill And Experience
Like any career, an attorney’s income will depend on their skillset and experience. No matter how talented, a first-year associate will not make a comparable salary to a partner in a large firm.
Legal Aid vs. For-Profit
In some of the nation’s most prominent law firms, first-year associates can earn six figures; however, lawyers working for nonprofit organizations, such as legal aid, generally earn less. Legal aid attorneys earned an average salary of $56,608 in 2023, according to Glassdoor. Salary ranges reported for lawyers working in legal aid ranged from $14,000 to $107,500 annually.
The salaries lawyers earn vary greatly. There are too many factors to consider to estimate how much lawyers make. 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.
FAQs on What Type of Lawyer Makes the Most Money?
How Can Lawyers Make More Money?
Lawyers can make more money by increasing their rate, changing how they bill for services (e.g., switching from a flat rate to an hourly rate), or switching to a more lucrative practice area. Another way to increase your income as a lawyer is to move to a new location or change your practice setting (e.g., from the private sector to the public sector or vice versa).
How Much Do Lawyers Make an Hour?
The average hourly wage of an attorney in the United States ranges from $51 per hour to $203.74 per hour.