The Ultimate Lawyer Salary Guide [Updated for 23 Fields in 2019]

by: Kristine Kristine Thorndyke | Last Updated November 30, 2019

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When considering what type of law you’d like to get into, there is certainly no shame in better understanding the salaries associated with that chosen path! When creating this list of the 23 most popular lawyer salaries, we looked at recent salary data provided by self-reports on PayScale as well as recent job postings on ZipRecruiter. 

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1. General Counsel Attorney Salary

Average: $162,000

Top 10%: $254,000

Bottom 10%: $88,000

General Counsel Lawyer Salary

General Counsel Lawyer Salary by Experience

<1 year: $74,000

1-4 years: $97,000

5-9 years: $132,000

10-19 years: $176,000

20+ years: $195,000

About a Career as a General Counsel Lawyer

A general counsel lawyer advises companies and represents them in court. Oftentimes, a general counsel lawyer is already experienced in the specific industry in which the company operates. For example, if a lawyer were to advise an oil company, he or she may already have experience in environmental law and understand the ins and outs of these policies. 

A general counsel lawyer takes on a heavy workload for a company and is often working directly with high-level executives and board of directors of the company. Because of the lofty level of responsibility in this role, a general counsel lawyer is expected to have several years of experience already under his or her belt. 

What Qualities do General Counsel Lawyers Have?

Communication skills and strategizing are two skills that are highly sought after for general counsel. Communication skills are required to break down legal jargon to those who operate in the business world. A general counsel may need to speak to an executive one-on-one or present to a room full of directors. In terms of strategizing, a general counsel’s role is interesting, as they can utilize law and policies to help to advance business. This means looking into the future and being able to make decisions that will deliver the best results. 

Example of a General Counsel Lawyer Job Description:

general counsel job opening

2. Patent Attorney Salary

Average: $139,000

Top 10%: $204,000

Lowest 10%: $82,000

patent attorney salary

Patent Attorney Salary by Experience

<1 year: $96,000

1-4 years: $122,000

5-9 years: $150,000

10-19 years: $161,000

20+ years: $179,000

About a Career as a Patent Attorney

A patent attorney’s main focus is to guarantee that a patent is protected against infringements. This role includes going through client products and making sure that they do not encroach on existing patents. For clients seeking to patent their product or technology, the attorney will apply for the patent, following submission rules. In general, patent attorneys are employed by private practices, government, legal firms, and large organizations. 

To become a patent attorney, you must complete an undergraduate degree in a scientific field or equivalent coursework. If you do not have these prerequisites, you may also pass the Fundamentals of Engineering test. Once you have this completed this pre-req, you may then attend law school as well as take the patent bar exam. Note that you do not need a law degree to take the patent bar exam and become a ‘patent agent,’ but a ‘patent attorney’ requires a law degree. 

What Qualities do Patent Attorneys Have?

Above all, a patent attorney must have great attention to detail as well as technical and analytical skills. Being able to communicate and simplify technical information is also key to having success in this job. 

Example of a Patent Attorney Job Description:

patent attorney job opening

3. Health Care Attorney Salary

Average: $129,166

Top 25%: $176,000

Lowest 25%: $77,500

health care attorney salary

Health Care Attorney Salary by State:

The 5 highest-paying states to become a health care attorney, according to ZipRecruiter, are in are New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, Connecticut, and California, with salaries averaging over $100,000. The five lowest-paying states for health care attorneys are Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Florida, and North Carolina, with average salaries between $78,000 to $87,000 per year. 

About a Career as a Health Care Attorney:

As job growth for many law careers is slowing down, the field of health law continues to expand, leading many to ask what a health care attorney does. Attorneys who specialize in health care work in the regulations and policies of healthcare institutions like hospitals, healthcare providers, insurers, pharmaceutical and device manufacturers, as well as individual practitioners. A health care attorney is usually hired for private law firms, government agencies, legal aid societies, non-profits, social services, as well as healthcare companies. 

What Qualities do Health Care Attorneys Have?

The healthcare industry changes at a rapid pace, so to have success in this career, you must be open and willing to learn constantly. You must be curious and excited about learning about your clients’ practice. Per usual for any law career, being detail-oriented is a must, as this is a highly regulated sector to work in and understanding the ins and outs of of the law are key in defending your clients as well as offering sound advice. 

Example of a Health Care Attorney Job Description:

health care attorney job description

4. Trial Attorney Salary

Average: $114,500

Top 25%: $122,500

Lowest 25%: $90,000

trial attorney salary

Trial Attorney Salary by State

The five highest-paid states for trial attorneys are New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, Hawaii, and Connecticut with salaries ranging from $114,000-$125,000. The five lowest-paid states in terms of average annual salary include North Carolina, Florida, Missouri, Mississippi, and Michigan with salaries between $90,000-$99,900.

About a Career as a Trial Attorney

A trial attorney meets clients and represents them in court. As exciting as dramatic courtroom action may sound, a trial attorney still spends a significant portion of his or her time reviewing documents and files and speaking with witnesses and experts. Another task of the trial attorney is to fill out paperwork related to the trial and filing these works. Some who pursue this field may also be dismayed to find that many cases may never even make it to court, as there is an emphasis to avoid a costly trial if cases can be settled outside of the courtroom..

What Qualities do Trial Attorneys Have?

Being detail-oriented is a strength of a great trial lawyer, as often it’s in the small details that make or break the entire case! In addition, a skilled trial attorney is persuasive and can communicate well with others. This may be communicating with clients, witnesses, experts, as well as with jurors.

Example of a Trial Attorney Job Description:

Trial Attorney Job Opening

Related: The Most Effective LSAT Prep Books – Our Top Picks 

5. Corporate Lawyer Salary

Average: $106,000

Top 10%: $247,000

Lowest 10%: $59,000

corporate lawyer salary

Corporate Lawyer Salary by Experience

<1 year: $96,000

1-4 years: $99,000

5-9 years: $119,000

10-19 years: $140,000

20+ years: $187,000

About a Career as a Corporate Lawyer

According to Hollywood, the corporate lawyer is a glamorous, high-profile position with lots of corruption and scandal. While we can’t speak for the latter, we can say that the corporate lawyer tends to have higher-profile work and is often a very secure, and high-paying role within a company. On a daily basis, corporate lawyers verify the legality of commercial transactions. What goes into verifying the legality of commercial transactions includes checking local, state, and federal laws. Corporate lawyers work on both sides of a transaction, writing legal documents that lay out the terms of the agreement. This is not nearly as straightforward as it sounds, as the process is long, leading to very long hours for the corporate lawyer. 

Corporate law can be a high-paying and rewarding career, but it comes with a tradeoff of long hours and often weekends, especially as you are starting off your legal career as an associate. You must enjoy long hours of advising businesses, drafting documents, and attending meetings just as much as you enjoy making a great salary. A little-known fact – Michelle Obama was working as a corporate lawyer in Chicago when she met Barack, but she quickly left the career upon meeting Barack and carving out her own path. 

What Qualities do Corporate Lawyers Have?

In addition to a solid foundation of business law and current trends, a corporate lawyer must be a great team player and have the skills to work with and lead a group of people. Corporate lawyers work with both sides and thrive when all players are successful. 

Example of a Corporate Lawyer Job Description:

corporate lawyer job description

6. Tax Attorney Salary

Average: $101,600

Top 10%: $196,000

Lowest 10%: $59,000

tax attorney salary

Tax Attorney Salary by Experience

<1 year: $78,000

1-4 years: $85,000

5-9 years: $125,000

10-19 years: $149,000

20+ years: $153,000

About a Career as a Tax Attorney

A tax attorney works specifically with tax law and can advise clients on how to take advantage of deductions as well as guide clients on various tax laws both locally, state-level, and federally. A tax attorney may take on cases including buying/selling a business, starting a business (such as an LLC, S-Corp, or C-Corp), owning a business abroad, estate planning, or navigating an audit by the IRS. 

You may be reading this and wondering what the differences between a CPA and a tax attorney are when it comes to receiving advice on your taxes. Both tax attorneys and CPAs can advise clients on tax deductions and business finances, but a tax attorney is who you must go to if you have trouble with the IRS or if you will need assistance with an audit. Similarly, a tax attorney is almost always necessary in at least part of forming businesses as well as debt collection. 

What Qualities do Tax Attorneys Have?

Because tax attorneys are generally advising clients on business and personal finance decisions, being able to communicate in a way that is informative but also comforting is key. The general public is not well-informed on tax law and will require a great tax attorney to communicate their options to them in a way that makes sense. 

Example of a Tax Attorney Online Job Description:

tax attorney job description

Related: Dating in Law School – Is it Possible? 

7. Entertainment Lawyer Salary

Average: $92,000

Top 25%: $100,000

Bottom 25%: $89,500

entertainment lawyer salary

Entertainment Lawyer Salary by State

As with the majority of law careers, where you practice has a great impact on what you’ll be making. The highest-paid entertainment lawyers in the US are located in New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, Connecticut, and California. The five lowest-paid states are North Carolina, Florida, Missouri, Michigan, and Illinois. In general, the average reported salary for entertainment lawyers has little variance, meaning that location as well as experience do not have a great impact on the salary and room for pay growth.

About a Career as an Entertainment Lawyer

Entertainment lawyers represent various types of talent in the entertainment industry, which may include film and television, comedy, music, or print/electronic media. They may be asked to work on their client’s IP rights, disputes, contracts, taxes, or overseeing union/guild memberships. As you may expect, some of the hottest markets for entertainment lawyers are Los Angeles and New York, as many creatives flock to these cities to make it big. That said, with the rising costs of Hollywood, many productions are finding their way outside of these coastal metropolises and moving to smaller cities or towns outside of California and New York.

What Qualities do Entertainment Lawyers Have?

Marketing and business development skills must be quite high to be a successful entertainment lawyer. Being able to market to new clients and build relationships with those in the industry are key in finding new work, especially in down times. Sometimes clients may be in low demand and an entertainment lawyer must find new opportunities for work. Knowing the right people and when to reach out to them is key in finding new high-paying contracts for clients.

Example of an Entertainment Lawyer Job Description:

entertainment lawyer job description

8. Government Attorney Salary

Average: $89,200

Top 10%: $151,000

Lowest 10%: $50,000

government attorney salary

Government Lawyer Salary by Experience

<1 year: $55,000

1-4 years: $64,000

5-9 years: $84,000

10-19 years: $100,000

20+ years: $112,000

About a Career as a Government Attorney

If you already guessed it, a government attorney will usually work for either the local, state, or federal government. Some common job sites include city hall or the state capitol. Federally, a government attorney may work for the FTC, the Department of Justice, or even the Securities and Exchange Commission. 

A career in government law is extremely competitive and the hours are likely as long as those working in the corporate field. The pay for a government attorney is much lower than the private sector, but the benefit, however, to working in this field, is having an impact on public policies that can have wide-ranging effects. 

What Qualities Do Government Attorneys Have?

Attorneys working for any government body will need to have top research skills, as they will be advising on a wide-range of legal topics. Problem solving is another top skill that is helpful regardless of what type of government body you work for, as you are helping to solve problems that affect populations as small as a city or as large as the United States. 

Example of a Government Attorney Job Description:

government attorney job opening

9. Constitutional Lawyer Salary

Average: $89,100

Top 25%: $101,500

Bottom 25%: $53,500

constitutional lawyer salary

Constitutional Lawyer Salary by State

Like the majority of law careers, where you decide to work has a pretty large impact on your annual salary. The 5 highest-paid states for average annual salary are New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, Hawaii, and Connecticut with average salaries from $89,200 through $97,400. The 5 lowest-paid states for constitutional lawyers include North Carolina, Florida, Missouri, Mississippi, and Michigan with salaries ranging from $69,800 through $77,630. 

About a Career as a Constitutional Lawyer

Specializing in the legal interpretation of the US constitution and constitutions of the 50 states, a constitutional lawyer has the ability to affect decisions that set precent for years to come! How one interprets the words in the constitution has great effect on how they can be applied to society, which makes it of utmost priority that a constitutional lawyer know how to argue a specific angle in which to result in the intended application. Those who practice constitutional law may do so for the federal government, non-profits, or for private law firms. A modern, powerful case brought on by constitutional lawyers include Obergefell v. Hodges, legalizing gay marriage across all 50 states.

What Qualities do Constitutional Lawyers Have?

It is imperative that constitutional lawyers have extremely keen attention to detail. When working with many constitutional law cases, rather than going to court on a daily or weekly basis for cases, a constitutional lawyer may work on one single case for months before making his or her court debut. Oftentimes, answering a single question can make or break the entire case presented in a constitutional law trial. Attention to detail as well as a degree of perfectionism may lead to greater success for a constitutional lawyer. Briefs written by constitutional lawyers may be used in cases for years to come, so choosing words carefully and strategically are key to having a positive impact on society. 

Example of a Constitutional Lawyer Job Description:

constitutional lawyer job opening

10. Civil Rights Attorney Salary

Average: $86,494

Top 25%: $100,000

Bottom 25%: $61,000

civil rights attorney salary

Civil Rights Lawyer Salary by State

The five highest-paid states, on average, for civil rights lawyers are New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, Hawaii, and Connecticut. The salaries in these states range from $86,600-$94,600. The five lowest-paid states, on average, are North Carolina, Florida, Missouri, Mississippi, and Michigan. 

About a Career as a Civil Rights Attorney

A civil rights lawyer spends their time working on cases regarding individuals or groups who are being discriminated against or whose rights are being violated. These civil liberties include freedom of religion, speech, assembly, as well as discrimination against race, gender, or origins, to name a few. Examples of violations of civil rights include discrimination in the workplace, failure to provide public accommodation for the disabled, and discrimination in education. This is certainly not an exhaustive list of types of cases a civil rights lawyer will work on but gives the general understanding that this role is can be an extremely fulfilling and rewarding career for those trying to promote a positive a change in society. 

To become competitive in seeking out civil rights attorney roles, it is important that your resume shows a commitment to civil rights issues. This involves taking courses such as employment discrimination, human rights law, disability law, etc. If you intend on working for a civil rights nonprofit upon graduation, it is advisable to become involved in public interest activities as well as seek out research and volunteering for civil rights projects or campaigns. As far as pay is concerned, most civil rights attorneys in urban settings can make the average or above-average salaries mentioned here for civil rights attorneys. This pay is not high, especially compared to those of corporate lawyers. We advise anyone considering a career in civil rights to be realistic about salary and understand the tradeoff for working in a career they are truly passionate about and find personally rewarding. 

What Qualities do Civil Rights Lawyers Have?

Civil rights lawyers tend to have soft skills that are not always explicitly stated in a job description. These include empathy for clients and groups that they are representing as well as a real interest and passion for those whose rights have or are being violated. A civil rights lawyer should be motivated by encouraging social change. In addition to these soft skills, a civil rights lawyer still needs to be highly competent in negotiation and mediation, communication, and analyzing information.

Example of a Civil Rights Lawyer Job Description:

civil rights attorney job description

11. Medical Malpractice Attorney Salary

Average: $86,500

Top 25%: $100,000

Lowest 25%: $60,000

medical malpractice attorney salary

Medical Malpractice Attorney Salary by State

The top 5 states to work in medical malpractice are New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, Hawaii, and Connecticut with salaries that range from an average $86,600-$94,600. The 5 states with the lowest average annual salary for medical malpractice attorneys include North Carolina, Florida, Missouri, Mississippi, and Michigan. 

About a Career as a Medical Malpractice Attorney

Annually, an estimated 250,000 deaths are caused by medical errors, making it the third leading cause of death in the US, according to this John Hopkins study. This is likely an undercount, as data does not include outpatient or nursing homes! That said, there is not a shortage of medical malpractice cases for those who choose to work in this legal field, and in 2012, an estimated $3 billion was awarded in medical malpractice lawsuits.

To work in this field, you must be able to prove negligence or a breach of duty of care for a patient from doctors, dentists, nurses, and healthcare providers such as hospitals or clinics, or medical corporations. Providing medical malpractice can be difficult, as not only must there have been a breach of duty of care, but there must also be a direct causal relationship between the plaintiff injuries and the breach of duty of care. 

To build a case, one must pour over medical records, research plaintiff injuries, collect sworn evidence from healthcare professionals, and work with healthcare professionals with expertise in the area to provide evidence of causality in injury. Oftentimes with medical malpractice cases, fees are distributed to the attorneys only if they are able to win the case and collect damages on the client’s behalf.

What Qualities do Medical Malpractice Attorneys Have?

Storytelling is a large part of success in this career, as the lawyer must convince the jury that negligence was involved in the narrative. Simple medical errors that resulted in injury is not enough to prove malpractice. The attorney must line up enough credible witnesses to convince at least 51% of the jurors that there was medical negligence in the case.

Example of a Medical Malpractice Job Description:

medical malpractice lawyer job opening

12. Employment Lawyer Salary

Average: $84,000

Top 10%: $160,000

Bottom 10%: $50,000

Employment Law Salary

Employment Lawyer Salary by State

The highest wages for employment lawyers are within large, urban firms. The five states with the highest-paid employment lawyers are New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, Connecticut, and California. The five states with the lowest-reported employment lawyers include North Carolina, Florida, Missouri, Michigan, and Illinois.

About a Career as an Employment Lawyer

Providing advice to employers and employees, an employment lawyer has a wide range of services they can offer to the public. The bulk of their work involves workers’ compensation claims, employment class actions, employment discrimination lawsuits, wage and hour disputes, and explanation of rights and compliance. In the real-world, these cases may include workplace disputes such as wrongful termination, unemployment compensation, or mistreatment by an employer.

A typical day for an employment lawyer is mixed between litigation and counseling. In the morning, you may be helping a client avoid litigation, and by evening, you could be out defending a client against an employment discrimination claim! The projects taken on by these lawyers can be both short-term as well as long-term. A short-term counseling session may just be advising a client on specific actions they can or cannot take towards their employees in the immediate future, whereas a long-term project may be spent reviewing employee handbooks to check for state and local law compliance. 

It’s said that working in employment law is among the more diverse roles of lawyers because of the variety of cases that fall into the legalities of employment and labor law. With the local, state, and federal laws regularly changing, there is generally a lot of new information to keep up on. 

What Qualities do Employment Lawyers Have?

Employment lawyers still need to have the same qualities as other successful lawyers including curiosity, problem-solving and analytical skills, work ethic, and responsibility. What makes an employment lawyer especially successful, however, is a deep interest and skill in working with people. This includes listening skills, understanding and empathizing, managing conflict, and being able to build and maintain trust with clients. 

Example of an Employment Lawyer Job Description:

employment lawyer job opening

 

13. Contract Attorney Salary

Average: $80,400

Top 25%: $98,000

Bottom 25%: $47,000

contract lawyer salary

Contract Attorney Salary by State

The five highest-paid states for contract lawyers are New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, Hawaii, and Connecticut with average salaries from $80,560-$87,940. The five lowest-paid states for contract lawyers, on average, are North Carolina, Florida, Missouri, Mississippi, and Michigan with salaries between $63,000-$70,100.

About a Career as a Contract Attorney

In general, a contract lawyer’s function is similar to that of an associate or general in-house counsel, however, the main difference is that a contract lawyer does not work for a law firm permanently and performs jobs for law firms of state governments on a freelance basis. A contract lawyer must meet the same requirements as someone working for a law firm and is likely to work on the same types of cases. They are usually commission per case, which may continue for days or months. Contract lawyers often have the opportunity to specialize in a particular area of law, in which case they may be called upon to work on cases that require their expertise. 

What Qualities do Contract Attorneys Have?

A good contract attorney must have strong attention to detail, especially when it comes to managing one’s own time as well as time worked. A contract attorney is oftentimes paid by hour and is responsible for keeping track of all billable hours. Additionally, a contract attorney needs to keep meticulous records of payment and expenses, as he or she will be responsible for filing taxes as a sole proprietor/freelancer annually. 

Example of a Contract Attorney Job Description:

contract lawyer job description

 

14. Criminal Defense Lawyer Salary

Average: $79,100

Top 10%: $176,000

Lowest 10%: $46,000

criminal defense lawyer

Criminal Defense Lawyer Salary by Experience

<1 year: $61,000

1-4 years: $71,000

5-9 years: $91,000

10-19 years: $104,000

20+ years: $98,000

About a Career as a Criminal Defense Lawyer

When you boil it down, a criminal defense lawyer speaks on behalf of a client who has been charged for a crime. Many, but not all, criminal defense lawyers work as public defenders and are assigned cases from the local up to the federal court-level. The others working as criminal defense lawyers can be hired by private firms. As you may assume, those working as criminal defense lawyers for the private firms tend to make a higher salary than those working as public defenders. In addition to public defenders leaning towards a lower salary than their private counterparts, they also have a higher workload, as the cases they are appointed to work on tends to be greater. 

When a criminal defense lawyer is assigned a case, he or she will then need to conduct interviews about the case as well as begin his or her investigation. Evidence will be considered as well as testing out legal theories that may be used against his or her client. The lawyer will play a role in the jury selection process as well as plea bargaining when trying to come up with a more savory deal for the defendant. A criminal defense lawyer also can play a role in negotiating the sentencing for a client who has either pled guilty or who was convicted by the judge. 

What Qualities do Criminal Defense Lawyers Have?

The most prized skill for a criminal defense lawyer is the ability of investigation. From the start of the case, the criminal defense lawyer is far behind the police, who may have been investigating the case of months or even years! Police reports are already out and the accusation has already been read by the judge. A criminal defense lawyer must be quick to investigate the case and find any details that the police may have passed over that could serve as evidence that contradicts the police or witness. 

Example of a Criminal Defense Lawyer Online Job Description:

criminal defens

15. Special Education Attorney Salary

Average: $78,668

Top 10%: $148,000

Bottom 10%: $50,000

special education attorney salary

About a Career as a Special Education Attorney

This law career specializes in the rights of children with disabilities. In defending disabled children’s constitutional rights within the educational sphere, they can work on behalf of the parents of the child or in defense of the school system. When acting on behalf of parents for their child, a special education lawyer will meet with school administration, psychologists, and other evaluators to determine the child’s specific needs as well as represent them in trials and hearings. When acting on behalf of a school corporation or individual such as teacher, administrator, or employees, they will generally litigate a range of legal problems as well as lobby for any beneficial alterations to school policy to accommodate special need students. 

Special education lawyers must have a law degree and a bachelor’s or master’s in education is considered a benefit but not necessary to get into this specialty. Some may choose to receive additional training or certification to add additional credibility to their practice. In addition, a lawyer choosing this path may volunteer for an advocacy group or take on pro bono work at a disability advocacy group. In creating contacts through such work, many can break through into a special education law firm.

What Qualities do Special Education Lawyers Have?

Working with disabled youth requires a set of skills that many other lawyers do not necessarily need to prioritize. A special education lawyer must be empathetic to the parents and needs of the clients he is working with. He or she also must understand the complexity of emotional, physical, and learning disabilities. 

Example of a Special Education Lawyer Job Description:

special education attorney

16. Divorce Lawyer Salary

Average: $78,600

Top 10%: $152,000

Lowest 10%: $41,000

divorce lawyer salary

Divorce Lawyer Salary by Experience

<1 year: $67,000

1-4 years: $70,000

5-9 years: $77,000

10-19 years: $102,000

20+ years: $102,000

About a Career as a Divorce Lawyer

With the divorce rate for a first marriage at 41% and the second marriage 60%, there is not a shortage of work for a lawyer specializing in divorce law or family practice. Because all 50 states have now accepted the no-fault divorce, there is often no need to provide proof of wrongdoing for the spouse and is much more easily granted. On the most part, divorce law comes from the state with very little federal regulations. 

A divorce lawyer has the capacity to take on cases of marriage annulment as well as child custody, support, and visitation rights. Depending on whether the divorce is a no-fault or fault divorce, as well as whether it is contested or uncontested, a divorce process may be finalized within 3 months or last as long as a year. 

What Qualities do Divorce Lawyers Have?

Because of the emotional nature of divorce and family disputes, someone in this position must have prime conflict-resolution skills as well as the ability to mediate between parties. Like other law careers involving working directly with clients on personal and/or emotional cases, divorce lawyers must have top interpersonal skills including empathy, active listening, and patience. 

Example of a Divorce Lawyer Online Job Description:

divorce lawyer attorney job opening

17. Real Estate Attorney Salary

Average: $77,500

Top 10%: $147,000

Lowest 10%: $49,000

real estate attorney salary

Real Estate Attorney Salary by Experience

<1 year: $56,000

1-4 years: $70,000

5-9 years: $92,000

10-19 years: $100,000

20+ years: $144,000

About a Career as a Real Estate Attorney

Involved in nearly any step involving the purchasing or sale of real estate property is the real estate attorney. These attorneys specialize in real property law and have the expertise to prepare and review property purchase agreements, mortgage documents, titles, and transfers. Required at every transaction in some states, but not all, a real estate attorney’s role is to guarantee that the transfer is legal and indissoluble. 

What Qualities do Real Estate Attorneys Have?

According to Gomez & Simon, truthfulness is the #1 rated quality of the best real estate attorneys in Los Angeles. Why is truthfulness required in real estate law? Well, for those who are working on purchasing a property, they often appreciate receiving honest updates on the unfolding of their case. If something goes south during the transaction, it’s imperative that this honest update is communicated to all parties involved! Breaking bad news isn’t fun for anyone, but it is a skill that must be formed, even doctors require specific training but feel lacking in this ability to break bad news to patients. Having the ability to convey truthfulness in such a way that leaves the client feeling trustful of your knowledge and advice is one of the best ways to maintain a strong relationship with those you are advising. 

Example of a Real Estate Attorney Online Job Description:

real estate attorney job opening

 

18. Toxic Tort Attorney Salary

Average: $72,300

Top 10%: $150,500

Bottom 10%: $35,000

toxic tort attorney salary

About a Career as a Toxic Tort Lawyer

Specializing in cases involving toxic substances, a toxic tort lawyer usually takes on cases representing a wronged individual or class-action lawsuits with multiple groups of wronged individuals that have suffered from toxic substances. These toxic products may include chemicals, pesticides, medicines, as well as malfunctioning medical devices and machines. 

You may recognize toxic tort cases from television ads, billboards, or from the news. A heavily publicized case against Monsanto, for example, is alleging that exposure to their weed-killing product, Roundup, is linked to cancer.  Easily stated, a toxic tort must prove that the plaintiff was exposed to the toxic chemical, that he or she became ill after this exposure, and that the defendant is at least partially responsible for exposing the victim to this chemical. As you can imagine, a difficulty in these cases is proving causation, especially due to the passage of time between exposure and the development of illness or suffering. 

What Qualities do Toxic Tort Lawyers Have?

A successful toxic tort lawyer, like many other lawyers mentioned in this list, must have empathy for their clients. In cases that involve large medical bills or suffering, clients are unsure of their fate or how to continue living the lives they once led. Empathy is required for this job, not only to relate to his or her client, but also to be able to clearly convey the pain and agony of his or her client to the jurors, judges, and to your insurance adjustor. He or she is responsible for representing the loss of a client, so being able to put oneself in the shoes of the client is absolutely imperative to persuade others of wrongdoing. 

Example of a Toxic Tort Lawyer Online Job Description:

toxic tort attorney job opening

19. Family Law Planning Attorney Salary

Average: $71,300

Top 25%: $121,000

Lowest 25%: $47,000

family law attorney salary

Family Law Attorney Salary by Experience

< 1 year: $56,000

1-4 years: $65,000

5-9 years: $83,000

10-19 years: $84,000

20+ years: $98,000

About a Career as a Family Law Attorney

A family lawyer performs some of the same duties as a divorce lawyer and estate lawyer, but has the capacity to handle issues that concern any members of the family including child custody, guardianship, estates and wills, prenups, adoption, child abuse, and family disputes in court. Sometimes a family lawyer will also represent victims of domestic violence or defend clients accused of domestic violence. They will work in small to mid-size law firms with a family practice. Some may also find their careers in nonprofit legal services. 

What Top Qualities Do Family Law Attorneys Have?

Honesty and creativity are two traits of a good family attorney. In terms of honesty, it is important for them to tell the truth to his or her clients, especially when it’s not always what sounds good or favorable. This is imperative, as reaching an agreement should be made by two parties, not just one. Creativity can also be a very helpful skill, as thinking outside the box can often result in creative resolutions to situations including child custody or divorce property allocation. 

Example of a Family Law Attorney Job Description:

family law attorney

 

20. Immigration Lawyer Salary

Average: $67,400

Top 10%: $109,000

Lowest 10%: $47,000

immigration lawyer salary

Immigration Lawyer Salary by Experience

<1 year: $56,000

1-4 years: $64,000

5-9 years: $85,000

10-19 years: $94,000

20+ years: $90,000

About a Career as an Immigration Lawyer

An immigration lawyer spends most of his or her time working with people who are having problems with immigration requirements. There are many immigrants and foreign citizens who must meet with the immigration authorities and an immigration lawyer’s purpose is to help guide and inform his or her clients on situations including green cards, visa applications, citizenship, and deportation (among others). 

Although immigration lawyers will spend some time in court during immigration hearings, the majority of their time is spent mediating between their clients and the immigration authorities. Like so many lawyers, the immigration lawyer is essential for clients who are not completely aware or understanding of the law that governs their situation. Immigration law is extremely complex and applications can sometimes take years to be completed. 

What Qualities do Immigration Lawyers Have?

One of the top qualities that will lead to success is a great set of communication skills as well as the ability to work across cultures/languages. Because an immigration lawyer is counseling someone on a complex set of regulations and laws, it is extremely important to be able to break down complex ideas into more digestible bits of information. Similarly, having the ability to speak multiple languages has a huge benefit for the client and for being able to convey details in their native tongue. 

Example of an Immigration Lawyer Job Description

immigration attorney job openin

 

21. Bankruptcy Attorney Salary

Average: $62,600

Top 10%: $130,000

Lowest 10%: $49,000

bankruptcy attorney salary

Bankruptcy Attorney Salary by Experience

1-4 years: $60,000

5-9 years: $73,000

10-19 years: $127,000

20+ years: $150,000

About a Career as a Bankruptcy Attorney

Probably the last person someone hopes to see, a bankruptcy attorney’s role is to counsel clients on the process of filing bankruptcy and determine whether this is the best move. Filing for bankruptcy is not always the best option, as some debts are not eligible, including student loan debt, child support or alimony, and fines for breaking the law. Once this attorney has examined the client debt, they will advise their clients on a filing plan based on what assets a client would like to preserve that may be helpful in paying off debts. 

When filing for bankruptcy, the attorney is responsible for preparing all documents for getting the bankruptcy process going and maintain the motion by filing any additional paperwork that arises.  

What Qualities do Bankruptcy Attorneys Have?

Attention to detail is an important trait for bankruptcy attorneys, as there may be various resolutions that a client may be able to reach depending on filing. This means they will need to spend a lot of time pouring over income, assets, debts, and expenses and testing out various angles of approaches for filing. 

Example of a Bankruptcy Attorney Job Description:

Bankruptcy attorney job description

 

22. Public Defender Salary

Average: $61,000

Top 10%: $97,000

Lowest 10%: $43,000

public defender salary

Public Defender Salary by Experience

< 1 year: $50,000

1-4 years: $52,000

5-9 years: $70,000

10-19 years: $75,000

20+ years: $78,000

About a Career as a Public Defender

Appointed by the court, a public defender’s role is to represent a defendant who does not have the funds accessible to hire their own private attorney. Most commonly, a public defender will work for the public defender’s office, and the court will appoint the public defender’s office to represent the defendant. From there, the public defender’s office will assign the lawyers cases as they come in. This type of lawyer performs the same tasks as that of a private attorney, but they work on more restricted government budget. 

Public defender’s offices vary, as states can have different procedures and training. Generally, states do not have a system in place for all of these offices, so best practices are organized by independent counties. 

What Qualities do Public Defenders Have?

Many will say that a public defender must have a sense of satisfaction in fighting for “the underdog.” When representing a client, a public defender must be able to bring attention to the factors that may have pushed a client towards committing a crime – poverty, mental health disorders, addiction or abuse. Sometimes, for someone in this role, an optimal case resolution may be rehab or a lessened prison sentence. 

Example of a Public Defender Job Description:

public defender job opening

23. Public Interest Lawyer Salary

Average: $60,100

Top 10%: $103,000

Lowest 10%: $47,000

public lawyer salary

Public Interest Lawyer Salary by Experience

<1 year: $52,000

1-4 years: $54,000

5-9 years: $65,000

10-19 years: $70,000

20+ years: $100,000

About a Career as a Public Interest Lawyer

Most public interest lawyers have chosen this profession out of passion and standing up for others who may otherwise not have a voice. This can be an extremely rewarding legal career and can give you a great sense of purpose. That aside, the reality of working in public interest is that you are going to make much less than those who have chosen a path in a private law firm, but, according to this study, you may be happier

A public interest lawyer usually works in the government or a non-profit and works on behalf of clients who have been alienated. The clients that a public interest lawyer works with generally do not have the means to utilize the legal system or feel the benefits of being a citizen. 

What Qualities Do Public Interest Lawyers Have?

A few personal characteristics that must be present for a successful public interest lawyer are passion for public service, self-motivation, patience, and empathy. As we’ve previously discussed, a career in public interest is not going to be as lucrative as other chosen law pathways. Because the reward of pay is lesser, it’s helpful to have a strong sense of duty towards others and passion for those who are victimized by the current legal system. 

Example of a Public Interest Lawyer Job Description:

public interest attorney job opening

 

What’s Next

We hope you found what you were looking for in our lawyer salary guide. As with any career, there are plenty of other factors to consider when choosing a specific path, as your overall happiness is more than just a paycheck. If you’re working towards law school, we’ve got your studying needs covered. Start here with our LSAT study schedules and learn how long to study for the LSAT. 

Kristine

Kristine Thorndyke

Kristine Thorndyke is the founder of Test Prep Nerds and a seasoned educator.  She has spent years writing test prep advice and tips for students and has been featured on Business Insider, CEO Blog Nation, and Insider.