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What Types Of Lawyers Make The Most Money In The United States?

An average salary a lawyers makes annually varies greatly depending on his or her specialty, sub-specialty, and geographic region. Other factors influence a lawyer’s annual salary, too, including:

  • The area of law the lawyer practices.

  • The attorney’s geographic region.

  • Whether the attorney works alone or with a law practice.

  • Whether the attorney works in the private or public sector.

  • The attorney’s experience and education.

  • Whether or not the attorney works for a corporation.

Below, our attorneys discuss how these factors influence a what a lawyer makes in salary, as well as what a typical legal professional earns.



What types of lawyers make the most money? What states pay the highest salary to attorneys?


What is the Average Median Income for Lawyers in the United States?


As of December 28, 2020, the average United States lawyers make $167,059 annually. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that lawyers earn an average annual income of $145,300 as of May 2019. However, that number immensely by state.


The Top Ten Highest Paying States For Attorney Salaries


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook and a study by Forbes magazine, the list of the highest paying States for attorneys is:

  1. California average annual lawyer salary: $171,550

  2. New York average annual lawyer salary: $167,110

  3. Massachusetts average annual lawyer salary: $165,610

  4. Connecticut average annual lawyer salary: $153,640

  5. Illinois average annual lawyer salary: $152,980

  6. Texas average annual lawyer salary: $150,250

  7. Colorado average annual lawyer salary: $147,560

  8. Arizona average annual lawyer salary: $145,750

  9. Virginia average annual lawyer salary: $139,180

  10. New Jersey average annual lawyer salary: $139,020

As seen through this list, and verified by the World Population Review, the U.S. States with the highest paying attorneys is strongly correlated the states having highest standards of living, but there are exceptions. Texas ranks 6th in attorney wages, but is highly regarded as a more affordable place to live.


In Which States Do Lawyers Earn The Least Money in The United States?


The list of the cities were attorneys are paid the least annual salary amounts tend to be those far less populated, and is as follows:

  • Montana average annual lawyer salary: $88,600

  • Mississippi average annual lawyer salary: $97,990

  • West Virginia average lawyer salary: $98,630

  • Arkansas average annual lawyer salary: $98,780

  • Idaho average annual lawyer salary: $99,360

  • Kentucky average annual lawyer salary: $100,100

  • South Carolina average annual lawyer salary: $105,320

  • Louisiana average annual lawyer salary: $105,490

  • Wyoming average annual lawyer salary: $105,600

  • New Mexico average annual lawyer salary: $105,910


Which U.S. Cities Pay The Most Money?


Most of the highest paying cities for lawyers are in California. That’s because The Golden State has a higher cost of living. For example, U.S. News reports that in San Jose, lawyers have the highest average income of any city in the United States at $281,420. San Francisco comes in second with $188,910. In, Washington, D.C lawyers make an average of $179,590 annually. Los Angeles ranks fourth with$178,470, followed by Bridgeport, Connecticut at $177,930.


What Areas of Law Pay the Most?


Most private practice attorneys specialize in one or two areas. Large firms may handle many different types of cases, but the individual attorneys specialize within the firm.


The areas of law with the highest average income for lawyers include:

  • Medical Malpractice and Personal Injury Lawyers

The American Bar Association Journal states that attorneys handling medical malpractice and/or personal injury can earn $250,000 or more each year. One other lists, however, personal injury lawyers don’t even rank in the top five earning averages. More modest estimates place a personal injury lawyer’s average salary at $73,000 annually.


How Much Do Personal Injury Lawyers Made Each Year?


According to the American Bar Association Journal, personal injury attorneys can earn a salary that exceeds $250,000 per year. However, the average personal injury salary is only $73,000 per years. Attorneys that specialize in a particular focus, such as offshore injuries, aviation accidents, pedestrian accidents, child-related injury claims, commercial accidents and eighteen wheelers, often make higher than average salaries, along with attorneys that focus a greater portion of their practice on specific complex injuries. Some examples of serious (or "catastrophic") injuries includes concussions, rotator cuff injuries, brain injuries, amputations, fractures, crush injuries, crush syndrome, and birth defects.


How Much Do Corporate Attorneys Make Each Year?


Lawyers working for corporations make some of the highest annual salaries. Estimates place the average between $165,000 and $225,000 per year. Depending on the industry a corporate attorney works in, however, that number can go much higher. Corporate lawyers mostly handle contracts, business disputes, employment issues, corporate mergers and acquisitions, and compliance with federal and state regulations.


How Much Do Bankruptcy, Immigration, and Probate Attorney make?


According to the ABA, attorneys practicing in these areas earn $140,000 or less per year. Bankruptcy attorneys help individuals and companies pursue debt relief through civil court. Probate attorneys help individuals and families with estate planning, including wills, trusts, long-term care planning, and probate litigation. Immigration lawyers handle cases related to legal and illegal immigration.


What is the average IP and Patent Lawyer salary?


The average annual salary of a lawyer that handles intellectual property and patent rights is between $129,000 and $132,000.


IP lawyers help individuals and companies protect confidential or protected information. Patent laws help protect a party’s invention.


What is the average salary of a Criminal Defense Attorney?


As of December 28, 2020, the average criminal defense lawyer’s annual salary is $89,103, but the salary range typically falls between $76,613 and $101,307. Typically, criminal defense lawyers charge between $150-$700 hourly, but with this fee structure the legal bill can quickly reach $15,000 or more.


What Areas of Law Do The Wealthiest Attorneys Practice?


The world's richest lawyers practice corporate or personal injury law. Wachau Tang is the word’s richest lawyer. He is worth $1.8 billion. Tang is a corporate lawyer who amassed most of his wealth with strategic investment holdings.


Coming in second is Warren Buffet’s partner at Berkshire Hathaway, Charlie Munger. Microsoft’s former lead attorney, Bill Neuron, ranks third with a net worth of $850 million. Neuron is known for guiding Microsoft through years of IP litigation.


Personal injury lawyers often rank in the Top 10 wealthiest lawyers, including Willie E. Gary and Mark Lanier, who had a net worth of $1.6 billion as of December 20, 2020.


How Does The Average Lawyer Salary Compare To Other Jobs?


Comparable jobs to lawyers include Financial Managers who in 2019 made an average of $147,530, Actuaries who typically obtained salary of $120,970, Political Scientists made $120,260, and Paralegals made $55,020.


However, the highest annual salary jobs and career path in the United States are mostly within the medical field. According to salary.com, as of December 28, 2020, the average Anesthesiologist salary in the United States made $393,800, and typically ranged between $341,200 and $446.500. The second highest paying annual salary are surgeons at $252,040, followed by maxillofacial surgeons at $237,570, and gynecologists at $244,610.


The Income A Legal Professional Makes Has Many Factors


Indeed estimates that $94,446 is the average salary for an attorney in the United States. It’s important to remember that a lawyer’s salary depends on numerous factors. Averages take into account extreme highs and extreme lows.



This writing is produced by Brit Mitchell of Sneed|Mitchell LLP - The Injury Team, a Texas Personal Injury Law firm handling catastrophic injuries through Texas and nationally. Thank you for visiting our website.