Highest Paid Types of Lawyers: Must Read
September 27, 2021 | Sagi Shaked
Lawyers have a reputation for making a lot of money. But lawyer salaries can vary by tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on a lawyer’s location, practice area, experience, and firm choice.
The median salary for all lawyers in 2020 was about $127,000. The range of salaries for attorneys runs from an average of about $190,000 on the high end to an average of about $50,000 on the low end.
Here is some information about how lawyers make their money and the highest-paid types of lawyers.
Compensation for Lawyers
Lawyers usually earn their compensation in two ways:
Lawyers in solo practices and law firm partners earn a share of their firm’s profits. The lawyer may obtain a windfall when the firm wins a big case and earns a big fee. It also means that the lawyer’s income could vary from year to year. In a busy year, the lawyer might make tens of thousands of dollars more than in a slow year.
Still, partners in law firms are some of the highest-paid lawyers, regardless of their field of practice. A partner in a law firm with more than 700 lawyers makes an average of $180,000 each year.
When a lawyer works as an employee, the lawyer usually earns a salary. This means the lawyer earns a regular paycheck and may even get a yearly bonus.
A salary provides a steady income, but these employees usually do not share in the profits when they win a big case. Instead, these sums go to their employer and their clients.
Lawyers who earn a salary work for:
- Law firms
- Public interest groups
- Government entities
That a lawyer earns a salary does not mean the lawyer is poor. Some of the highest-paid lawyers in America serve as corporate counsel. These in-house lawyers earn $174,000 on average.
In many corporations, the general counsel also serves as a corporate officer. These lawyers may receive stock options and other perks that push their compensation into the millions.
Highest-Paid Lawyers in America by Practice Area
Corporate in-house counsel and law firm partners earn the highest pay among lawyers.
An in-house counsel for an insurance company might focus on insurance law while an in-house counsel for a technology company might practice patent law. Regardless, both types of lawyers will receive some of the highest salaries in the legal field.
But compensation for other types of lawyers will depend on their practice. For example:
Intellectual Property Lawyers
Intellectual property (IP) covers patents, trademarks, and copyrights. These lawyers earn a salary that is greater than the median salary. On average, IP lawyers make about $140,000 each year.
Medical Malpractice Lawyers
Medical malpractice cases usually involve large settlements and damage awards. The reason is that healthcare providers often have large malpractice insurance policies. The damages suffered by victims of medical malpractice usually justify large settlements or damage awards.
As a result, medical malpractice lawyers earn, on average, about $10,000 more than the median salary for attorneys.
Government lawyers earn surprisingly good salaries. Lawyers who work for the federal government earn about $150,000, well above the median salary.
But the salary for government lawyers will vary depending on their role and employer. A lawyer who works for a city government earns about $100,000, far less than the median salary.
Lawyer Compensation and Clients
Injury lawyers charge a fair fee and ensure that their clients receive the bulk of their compensation. They do this by charging on a contingent basis. A contingent fee is a percentage of the settlement or damage award that a lawyer earns for the client.
This type of fee provides an incentive to the lawyer to get the best possible outcome for the client.