Lawyer Salary

Lawyer SalaryLawyers are often portrayed as sharks that have ulterior motives.  They are perceived as untrustworthy characters that are willing to do anything to win their case.  This is simply not the truth.  Most lawyers are not as ruthless as films portray them.  There are various types of specialties that can suit any number of individuals with differing personalities.  Want to know how much Lawyers make?  We will go over Lawyer Salary in this article.

Lawyer Salary

What is the salary of a Lawyer?  Currently, the annual average salary for Lawyers is $133,470 and the hourly average salary is $64.17. The top 10% of individuals in the occupation are earning around $187,199 while the starting wage can be as low as $55,400.  The top paying states are District of Columbia, California, New York, Delaware and Massachusett.

The top five industries lawyers work in are finance and insurance, federal government, legal services, local government, and state government.  Salaries will vary widely depending on the type, size, and location of the employer.  Lawyers who own their own practice usually earn less than those that are partners in firms.  The majority of lawyers work full time and often work long hours depending on the demands of their cases.  Larger firms may be able to afford yearly bonuses and additional benefits such as paid vacation time.

Lawyer Job Description

Lawyers are trained to advise and represent individuals, businesses, and government agencies on legal issues.  They typically advise and represent clients in court, communicate with clients and other parties, conduct research and analysis of legal problems, interpret laws, rulings, and regulations for individuals and businesses, present facts in writing and verbally to their clients or others and argue on their behalf, and prepare and file legal documents.

They act as both advocates and advisors to clients.  As an advocate a lawyer represents a party in criminal or civil trials through presenting evidence and arguing for the client.  As an advisor lawyers council clients about their legal rights and obligations.  All lawyers research the intent of laws and judicial decisions.

Lawyers usually specialize in one of eleven different areas:

  • Prosecutors usually work for the government to file a lawsuit against another party accused of violating the law.
  • Defense attorneys can work for individuals or the government to defend the accused.
  • Government counsels work in government agencies to write and interpret laws and regulations.
  • Corporate counsels work for corporations. They often advise upper management on legal decisions.
  • Legal aid lawyers work for organizations that help disadvantaged people. They usually handle civil cases about topics such as leases or wage disputes.
  • Environmental lawyers handle issue related with regulations that are related to the environment.
  • Tax lawyers help clients navigate tax laws and ensure that they pay the appropriate tax amount.
  • Intellectual property lawyers deal with laws related to inventions, patents, and creative works.
  • Family lawyers handle legal issues pertaining to families such as divorce or adoption processes.
  • Securities lawyers work on legal issues that come from buying or selling stocks.
  • Litigation lawyers deal with lawsuits between parties.

Work Environment

The legal services industry employs almost half of all lawyers.  They work mostly in well lit and ventilated offices.  They also spend a lot of their time in law libraries researching laws and judicial decisions that may help them advise their clients.  Some travel to attend meetings with clients in various locations.  Others are required to travel for court dates.

Those lawyers that appear in court are often under a lot of pressure to perform flawlessly.  Most work full time with the majority working overtime in order to stay up to date on their cases.  Evening and weekend working hours are normal for nearly all lawyers.  It is not uncommon for lawyers to work upwards of 100 hours per week in more high-profile cases.

How to become a Lawyer

All lawyers must have a law degree and also pass a state’s bar examination which allows them to practice law in a particular state.  Becoming a lawyer requires that an individual obtain an undergraduate degree and then attend a three year law program.  Law school can cost between $16,800 and $34,300 on an annual basis. Most states require lawyers to complete a J.D. from a law school accredited by the American Bar Association.

A bachelor’s degree is a prerequisite for acceptance to most law schools.  Courses in English, public speaking, government, history, economics, and mathematics are useful.

Almost all law schools require applicants to take the LSAT.  It measures an applicant’s aptitude for the study of law.  J.D. programs typically included courses in constitutional law, contracts, property law, civil procedure, legal writing, etc.  Law students can choose a specialization in their course of study.

Licensing is required in all states and jurisdictions.  To become licensed lawyers must pass a bar exam in the state which they wish to practice.  Check with the National Conference of Bar Examiners for more specifics on each state’s bar requirements.  In order to maintain their licensing most states require lawyers to partake in continuing legal education at least once every three years.  Most law schools and local bar associations provide continuing education courses.

Career Outlook

By 2022 employment of lawyers is expected to grow by 10% which is about as fast as the average for all occupations.  Demand for legal work will continue to grow as individuals and businesses require legal aid in various situations.  Despite this growth price competition will lead law firms to rethink their staffing.  Clients are increasingly demanding less expensive rates and cut back on legal expenses overall.  This will likely reduce the demand for lawyers as many tasks previously assigned to lawyers can be handled by paralegals.  Routine legal work can also be outsourced overseas.Although law firms still employ the most lawyers, corporations are increasingly hiring more in-house counsel to help cut costs.  This will lead to an increase in the demand for lawyers in businesses.

Demand for lawyers is typically subject to the cyclical swings of the economy.  During recessions demands for legal aid declines.  In recessions people are less willing to use funds for discretionary legal services such as planning.  Additionally, corporations are less likely to litigate cases when sales and profits are declining.

Related Careers

Paralegals and legal assistants are responsible for a number of tasks that support lawyers from maintaining files to drafting documents.  Most work for law firms or corporate legal departments.  They tend to have at least an associate’s degree or certification in paralegal studies.  However, it is more desirable to hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree.  Annual average salary for paralegals and legal assistants is $46,990.

Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators help resolve conflicts outside of courts by facilitating negotiation and dialogue between parties.  They can hold private, confidential hearings which are less formal than a court trial.  Most work for state or local governments.  They learn their skills through a combination of education, training, and work experience.  Annual average salary for this profession is $61,280.

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