By Diane Turner
Lawyers are some of the oldest professional careers worldwide. These individuals represent the government, businesses or individual clients to help settle disputes or address legal issues. The average salary of a lawyer will vary based on the type of clients they typically represent and the type of legal work they normally take on.
Lawyers will be expected to communicate with their clients as well as others involved with a given case, present the facts of the case to these individuals, prepare any documents such as wills, appeals or lawsuits associated with these legal actions and advise their clients when representing them in private, government or court-related circumstances. Behind the scenes lawyers will also be expected to conduct extensive research of existing laws so they can provide an analysis for their clients regarding how to proceed with their legal issues.
The salary for a lawyeris largely tied to the type of environment where they work. Most lawyers work in an office but some will be expected to travel to homes, prisons or hospitals to meet with their clients. Lawyers are also largely expected to appear in court to represent their clients or to visit various legal or government offices to perform research necessary to build their case. Lawyers will typically work full time or extended hours to meet these requirements as necessary. Those working in large firms can often request those working for them such as paralegals or assistants to perform this research for them.
In order to become a lawyer, you must complete a bachelor’s degree, though there is no specific field required. Then these individuals must earn a competitive score on the LSAT to earn admission into a law school. Law school will take three years of study to complete. During this time most students also complete intern or externships to gain experience in the field. Once they graduate, law students must pass the bar exam for the state where they wish to practice. The lawyer average salary is quite high compared to other fields due to the exclusivity created by these efforts.
Lawyer Average Salary
The average lawyer salary is $122,760, but there are a wide range of factors that will determine the average salary for a lawyer at any given time. These factors include the area where the lawyer works, the amount of experience they have and the type of industry where the lawyer practices.
Lawyer Salary Factors and Influences
One of the most influential factors that help to determine the salary of a lawyer is the industry where they are employed. In general, practices that expect lawyers to take on more responsibility and act in a more public setting will offer more competitive salaries than professions that largely have lawyers acting in the interests of individual clients. To begin this comparison, take a look at the figures for the industries that boast the highest employment levelsin the legal profession.
Legal Services Average Salary: $137,170
Local Government Average Salary: $93,070
State Government Average Salary: $81,960
Federal Executive Branch Average Salary: $129,430
Management of Companies and Enterprises Average Salary: $161,570
These are largely what you would expect, industries that specialize in passing laws or providing legal advice to individuals or companies. You will note that many of these salaries are lower than the national average. This is largely due to the fact that these industries are saturated with experienced lawyers and those that are new to the industry. Those that have less experience in the legal field are not going to earn a competitive salary until their career has progressed.
Industries that are more likely to compare experienced lawyers tend to offer higher salaries. Below is a list of the highest paying industriesthat regularly hires lawyers.
Petroleum and Coal Products Manufacturing Average Salary: $215,760
Motor Vehicle Manufacturing Average Salary: $187,360
Specialty Hospitals (excluding substances or psychiatric facilities) Average Salary: $184,610
Wholesale Electronic Markets, Agents and Brokers Average Salary: $183,790
Pipeline Transportation of Natural Gas Average Salary: $182,300
These industries will typically hire a personal legal team that will represent them in everything from drawing up contracts to representing them in court. Because these individuals will be expected to take on a great deal of responsibility, the lawyer average salary for these positions is higher than most other positions.
Lawyer Salary Compared To Related Fields
The salary for a lawyer is often compared to other industries that require a specialized graduate degree to enter the field.
Average Salary for a Lawyer:$112,760
Average Salary for a Judge or Hearing Officer: $91,880
Average Salary for a Paralegal or Legal Assistant: $46,680
Average Salary for Postsecondary Teachers: $62,050
As you can see, the salary for lawyers tends to be higher than other industries that require a similar amount of education. This is largely because law programs are fairly competitive compared to other industries that require a secondary degree. The average salary of a lawyer is also higher than most others working in the legal field because they will typically work longer hours and will take on more responsibility on the behalf of their clients than others in the industry.
Lawyer Salary by State
Location will play a huge role in a lawyer’s salary. It is important to make note of these differences before finishing your education so you can make the right choice for your future. You will need to take the bar exam for the state where you wish to practice, which may also impact where you choose to attend law school. To help with this decision, note the highest paying states for lawyers to be employed.
Lawyer Salary in District of Colombia:$161,050
Lawyer Salary in California:$156,570
Lawyer Salary in Delaware:$151,290
Lawyer Salary in New York:$151,080
Lawyer Salary in Connecticut:$145,960
District of Colombia has the highest salaries due to the high concentration of federal jobs in this area. These positions tend to be filled by more experienced lawyers that can demand a more competitive salary for their services. Other states on this list have a high level of professionals or companies within their borders that will require a legal team to take on their needs. This will increase the demand and value of high quality legal help.
For the sake of comparison, note the lawyer salary by state for areas that have the highest concentrationof lawyers.
Average Salary in California: $156,570
Average Salary in New York: $151,080
Average Salary in Florida: $119,780
Average Salary in Texas: $131,320
Average Salary in District of Colombia: $161,050
As you can see, the average salary for a lawyer in these areas is still high with most states offering a salary that is above the national average. Much of the increase in hiring here is due to the fact that there are higher populations in these areas. Instead of working in specialized fields, lawyers will be working more closely with individuals and families who will require occasional legal assistance rather than companies that will keep a lawyer on call throughout their career.
Lawyer Types of Salaries
Attorney I: Average Salary: $85,775
Incoming attorneys will typically work in conjunction with other attorneys to prepare any necessary documents for a client. They will also act on the behalf of a client to take part in any legal actions or to protect them from potential legal risks. These individuals must be familiar with the tasks and practices necessary for the type of law which they are practicing and be admitted to the bar in the area of the country where they are hoping to practice.
Attorney II: Average Salary: $112,378
These attorneys will examine any contracts that will be used for sales, purchases, licenses, leases and other issues that may require legal advice before completing. They will be asked to provide forms for a client or participate in legal proceedings on the client’s behalf, which includes protecting the client from legal risks associated with certain actions. These lawyers are encouraged to earn at least two years of experience before taking on these responsibilities without supervision from more experienced attorneys.
Attorney III: Average Salary: $145,573
Attorneys at this level will be responsible for examining and preparing any contracts for legal cases, sales, purchases, insurance or other matters. They will be able to provide legal advice, typically to organizations rather than private clients. This can include preparing any necessary forms or participating in legal actions involving this company .They will evaluate the organization’s actions and do what they can to protect the organization from potential legal risks. These attorneys are encouraged to earn at least 5-8 years of experience before seeking employment at this level.
Judge: Average Salary: $149,432
Judges or magistrates will oversee the legal process in a community and ensure that the court rulings on a particular matter are followed by those involved with a given case. They will be charged with upholding the laws. Most states require individuals to have experience as a lawyer before they can act as a judge. Different states and different levels of government will have varying rules on what it takes to become a judge. Some require these individuals to be elected while others are appointed to these positions.
Real Estate Attorney: Average Salary: $119,208
Real estate attorneys will handle any real estate issues such as the transfer of deeds and titles, mortgage issues, construction and zoning for a property. They will provide legal advice to clients, prepare any necessary forms and resolutions and will participate in any legal actions concerning the property. These people must have earned a law degree from an accredited school, passed the bar in the area where they plan to practice and earned 2-5 years of experience in the legal or real estate field.
History of Lawyers
The idea of someone representing or arguing on behalf of the laws of the land dates back to ancient times. In ancient Rome it was determined that legal advocates would be allowed professional status, a move that established these individuals as a profession of their own. Even in these times, lawyers were expected to study the laws extensively so they could provide accurate guidance for those that sought their expertise.
Due to the overpowering influence of the church and reigning monarchies, the legal profession was minimized in the Middle Ages. This trend continued until the passing of the Magna Carta and the Protestant Reformation, each of which helped the people regain control of their right to make decisions for themselves. Once the concept of allowing professionals trained in the laws of the land to represent the people was in favor once more, those within this profession began to establish oaths that would set the educational requirements and ethical standards these professionals were expected to follow. This trend was further increased centuries later with the American and French revolutions. With each major historical event that encouraged democracy and the freedom of individuals, the need for strong lawyers has grown, increasing the demand for this industry and the average lawyer salary.
LawyerSalary Outlook – Conclusion
The legal profession in general is expected to see a 14 percent increase by 2020 with lawyers seeing a 10 percent increase and legal occupations seeing 11 percent. This is on par with general employment statistics with most professional jobs also expecting a 14 percent increase in employment during this time frame. The increase in the salary of a lawyer will vary based on the type of work these individuals will perform. Those that perform criminal representation work on the behalf of the federal government or other tasks that are necessary on a regular basis will see a steady average lawyer salary while more basic work such as document processing may see a lower value over time.
The demand for lawyers will be dependent on business growth. As businesses open or expand they will require more legal representation to manage their interests. Lawyers that can provide this type of experience will see a higher lawyer average salary than those working in more basic aspects of the field. The federal government is also increasing their demand for legal representation, mostly to represent their interests in court or to pursue debts owed to organizations managed by the federal government.
Many basic tasks such as preparing documents or counseling clients are now being taken over by accountants or paralegals at the corporate level. These types of services will still see popularity and strong growth in the private sector, but lawyers should not expect to make a competitive salary doing this type of basic work at a major law firm in the future. Instead they will be expected to take on more public responsibility while acting in the interests of their clients.