While I’m guessing making lots of money wasn’t your only reason for considering a career as a lawyer, it’s probably going to be near the top of your list. Who’s going to blame you there? I’m not.
It’s what I was told as well.
I’m not going to tell you that lawyers don’t make money. In many circumstances attorneys make modest livings, and they have no regrets. Well, this article isn’t talking about those attorneys. It’s all about the highest paying legal jobs that bring in the big bucks.
Before I get into that, however, you need to read this article with a little grain of salt. The big salaries are not going to lawyers fresh out of law school. It takes a while to get up to the “national average” in most cases. So, my hope is that you can look to these numbers with the understanding that you’ll get there eventually.
Salary depends on location.
The first thing you need to understand is that attorney salaries vary by geographic region, state, county, and even city. So, while there might be a national average for patent law attorneys, those numbers are going to vary depending on where the patent attorney practices law. So, here are some of the wealthiest areas to practice law in general:
- Washington DC
- New York
The average salaries in these states ranges from $148,000 at the lowest, to $160,000 at the highest. Notice that the majority of these states are on the east coast. You should also note that the cost of living is higher in these states than say, Wyoming, or Montana.
Salary also depends on the size of your law firm.
I’m just going to go and say it. The larger your law firm, the more money you’re going to make. It doesn’t matter what area of law you practice. The law firms with 500 or more attorneys make much more money, on average, than lawyers at smaller firms. The difference is pretty stark too.
Private practice makes much more than public practice
This is true with the exception of federal judges, and state judges at the appeal and supreme court levels. Right now the salary for a federal district court judge is over $200,000 per year. However, with all the public sector attorneys out there, such as public defenders, district attorneys, county attorneys, city attorneys, and court appointed guardians ad litem, the difference between the attorneys in private practice and public practice is very different.
Some kinds of law lend themselves to higher salaries
There are some kinds of law that, because of the nature of the work done, and the high stakes involved, bring in more money. Those areas of law would be intellectual property, personal injury, real estate, corporate law, and complex civil litigation.
Other areas of law are much less lucrative, just because of the nature of the clientelle those attorneys serve. Consumer law, family law, and immigration come to mind.
But, remember, there are niches all over the place, and even in areas like bankruptcy, family law, and immigration, you can make a name for yourself and make the money you want. It just takes time.