What Are the Highest-Paid Types Of Lawyers?

As you probably already know, the legal profession can be quite lucrative. Lawyers are among the highest earners in the country. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average wage for lawyers in 2019 was $145,300 while the median was $122,960. 

And while not every lawyer makes six figures, the best paying law jobs are found where you would expect in places like Washington D.C, New York, and California. In some of those places, first-year salaries started at $190,000, not including signing or year-end bonuses.

In addition to where you practice, what type of law you practice is also a factor in how much money you can expect to make. Here are the highest-paid types of lawyers.

Corporate Lawyers

Corporate lawyers are the ones who start out at $190,000 a year in the big cities, but when you factor in smaller locations the average salary for corporate lawyers comes to around $165,000. There are, however, significant differences even among corporate lawyers as partners and equity partners will make far higher salaries than new associates. 

Patent and Intellectual Property Lawyers

In addition to having great starting salaries, patent and intellectual property lawyers have a very good average and median salary too. On average, a patent lawyer can make $130,000 though with experience and skill that number can get a lot higher.

Personal Injury Lawyers

While statistics vary depending on the source, personal injury attorneys can make a decent annual wage. Some sources put the figure around $73,000 while others claim it can eclipse $200,000.

The reason for the difference is most likely because of the wide spectrum of personal injury lawyers. While some in small towns won’t make very much at all, the sky’s the limit for quality personal injury lawyers who have trial experience and can negotiate big settlements. 

The potential income for a personal injury lawyer also depends on the kinds of cases they specialize in. This is often true for lawyers who handle cases with a high-degree of difficulty, such as:

Personal injury lawyers in large cities where these types of accidents are common, have a far greater earning potential than those in smaller towns and rural areas.

Criminal Defense Lawyers

Criminal defense lawyers take cases for those who are accused of a crime and work either get their charges dismissed, prove them innocent, or minimize their penalty. While public defenders who do the same but are paid by the state do not typically have very high salaries, private criminal defense lawyers have a much brighter income forecast. 

The average salary for a private criminal defense lawyer is around $115,000. However, like in other practice areas, the actual salary can vary greatly based on experience and the types of crimes a lawyer specializes in defending. 

Tax Lawyers

Tax lawyers are another group that is very well compensated. They specialize in advising companies on complex legal matters relating to their taxes or representing them in court if a company is accused of making mistakes on their taxes.

The average salary for a tax lawyer is around $99,000.

Bankruptcy Lawyers

Another type of lawyer that advises and represents individuals and businesses in legal matters related to finance and taxes are bankruptcy lawyers. For helping clients who are looking to find debt relief, bankruptcy lawyers can expect to earn a salary in the lower $100,000 range.

Lawyers on the East Coast 

As noted above, lawyers in places like Washington D.C. and New York make the highest salaries in the country. Geographic area matters nearly as much as practice area when it comes to salaries for lawyers, and those who practice in the densely populated eastern seaboard have the benefit of making more than lawyers in middle America. 

Choosing the Lawyer that Is Right for You

While salaries can be an important indicator of the quality of a lawyer, it is best to choose a lawyer that specializes in the area of law related to your case. It is also extremely important that you feel you can trust your lawyer and that they communicate clearly. 

During your first interview with your lawyer, ask them about their areas of expertise, how long they have been practicing, and about cases similar to yours. Don’t settle for an incompetent lawyer and keep up your search until you find the lawyer that is right for you.