Lawyers earned a median annual wage of $122,960 in 2019, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports, with a range from the lowest 10% earning less than $60,000 and the highest 10% earning more than $208,000. While this is well above the average for all occupations ($39,810), it does not convey the entire story, such as which work settings, industries or states are the most financially rewarding for lawyers. We examine those questions and more below.
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Lawyer Salary by Work Settings
According to the Bloomberg Law’s review of the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) and Public Service Jobs Directory (PSJD)’s 2018 Public Service Attorney Salary Survey, the starting salaries for lawyers in civil legal services organizations by work setting are:
|Legal Work Setting||Average Salary|
|Large Law Firm||$190,000|
|Midsize Law Firm||$115,000|
|Small Law Firm||$90,000|
Lawyer Salary by Industry Field
According to the BLS as of May 2019, the industries with the highest lawyer salaries are:
|Industry||Annual Mean Wage|
|Cable and Other Subscription Programming||$224,970|
|Motion Picture and Video Industries||$216,800|
|Highway, Street and Bridge Construction||$215,850|
|Computer and Peripheral Equipment Manufacturing||$210,310|
|Engine, Turbine and Power Transmission Equipment Manufacturing||$207,880|
More generally, the BLS, as of May 2019, estimates lawyers on average earn the following according to their industry:
|Industry||Median Annual Wage|
Lawyer Salary by Work Experience
Unfortunately there is no one authoritative source for lawyer salary by work experience. However, pay information from the American Bar Association (ABA) Journal says first-year associates earned median base salaries of $98,750 to $180,000 in 2019, depending on the size of their firms. ABA estimates partners earned $371,000 to $1.136 million depending whether they had equity in the firm.
Lawyer Salary by Location
According to BLS, lawyers earned the most in these states:
|State||Annual Mean Wage|
According to the BLS, as of May 2019, the metropolitan areas with the highest lawyer salaries are:
|Metropolitan Area||Annual Mean Wage|
|San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA||$218,420|
|San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA||$188,910|
|Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA||$178,470|
|New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA||$174,720|
|Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA||$169,460|
|Beaumont-Port Arthur, TX||$166,850|
|Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA||$164,010|
The nonmetropolitan areas with the highest lawyer salaries are:
|Metropolitan Area||Annual Mean Wage|
|Central New Hampshire||$136,710|
|North Valley-Northern Mountains Region of California||$134,400|
Becoming a lawyer may seem tantalizing based on salary alone. But it’s important to know that entering the legal field as a practicing lawyer takes years of education. To become a lawyer, students need to earn a Juris Doctor (J.D.), and prepare for the bar exam to pass the bar and earn licensure in their state of practice. To further their studies in a specific area of law, they may also earn a Master of Laws (LL.M.).
The median annual wage for lawyers was $122,960 in 2019. The lowest paid 10% of lawyers earned less than $59,670 a year, while the highest paid 10% earned more than $208,000.
Based on the BLS information above, lawyers in the cable and other subscription programming industry earn the highest salary, an average of $224,970. However, it is important to know that salary depends on experience, education, state and industry.
Information on this page was retrieved in June 2020.