Many people assume that lawyers are some of the top earners in the United States. However, according to the American Bar Association’s 2021 Profile of the Legal Profession, dentists, family medicine physicians, chief executives, and surgeons earn more per year than lawyers. The ABA estimates that attorneys earn an average of $148,910 per year.
On average, lawyer salaries have increased more than the inflation rate over the past 20 years. That fact makes a career in law appealing to many individuals.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics places the job growth for lawyers from 2020 to 2030 at nine percent, which is as fast as average. It estimates the annual median pay for attorneys in 2020 was $126,930 or $61.03 per hour.
Factors That Impact Lawyer Salaries
Several factors impact how much an attorney earns. Those factors include:
- Education and special certifications
- Years of experience
- The type of law practiced
- The geographical area of the attorney’s law practice
- Whether the lawyer works in public service
- The number of cases the attorney handles each year
- Billable hours and fee rates
Where an attorney practices law greatly impacts how much the attorney earns. Five of the ten cities with the highest average wages for attorneys are in California. On the other hand, three of the ten cities with the lowest wages for lawyers are in Puerto Rico. Attorneys in California’s top-earning cities were paid four times as much as attorneys in the lowest-paid cities in Puerto Rico.
Other factors may also impact how much an attorney earns. For example, experience is another factor that impacts attorney wages. Attorneys who have practiced longer generally earn much greater salaries than lawyers with just a few years of experience. The size of the law firm also impacts salary wages.
According to the ABA, law firm size was a significant factor in first-year associates’ salaries in 2021. For example, an associate at a law firm with eight years of experience earned an average of $160,000 in 2021. However, associates with the same experience in a firm with 701 or more employees earned $260,000 in 2021.
Types of Lawyers Who Earn Higher Salaries
The type of law an attorney practices can significantly impact how much money the attorney earns. However, it is essential to remember that other factors impact salaries. Therefore, there could be instances in which a lawyer earns much less or much more than the average salary for an attorney in that area of practice.
Legal practices that generally pay higher salaries include:
- Civil Rights
- Maritime Law
- Intellectual Property
- International Law
- Personal Injury
- Criminal Law
- Family Law
- Bankruptcy Law
Generally, the more specialized knowledge and experience required to practice an area of law, the higher the salary. One factor is that fewer attorneys have experience in that area of law. Therefore, the attorneys can demand and receive higher salaries and attorneys’ fees.
How Much Do Personal Injury Attorneys Earn?
Personal injury law is one of the most popular – and competitive – practice areas. It is also one of the areas of law that have some of the widest ranges of salaries for lawyers.
ZipRecruiter places the average annual salary for a personal injury attorney somewhere between $64,000 to $95,607, depending on which state the attorney practices in. However, some injury attorneys may earn less than the average salary in their state. Likewise, some accident and injury attorneys may earn hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.
Why? personal injury lawyers typically work on a contingency fee basis. This means that how much money they earn depends on the results they’re able to get for their clients. The more an attorney is able to recover in a settlement or verdict, the more they’ll be paid. Most attorneys recover anywhere between 33% and 40% of their clients’ awards.
Things like years of experience, level of skill, and location will influence how much a personal injury lawyer earns.
For example, a regular personal injury attorney in New York earns an average of $82,049/year. An experienced personal injury lawyer like Jay Knispel, who has over 25 years of litigation experience in New York City and has recovered tens of millions of dollars on behalf of his clients, earns way more than the average annual salary.
Hard Work and Personal Motivation Affect a Lawyers Earnings
As with all other careers, working harder usually means earning more money. Therefore, an attorney can choose to work more hours to increase their earnings.
Some lawyers choose to pursue special certifications to specialize in areas of law that earn more money. Other lawyers may be content to work 40 to 50 hours a week without putting in the extra effort to attain a higher degree of expertise.
Practicing law is more than a career. For many individuals, being a lawyer is a passion. They feel compelled to see that our justice system works for everyone.
For example, many personal injury attorneys are motivated to help injured people receive the compensation they deserve. They diligently work to hold at-fault parties financially responsible for their negligence and wrongdoing. Personal injury lawyers fight to get their clients the money they deserve for injuries and damages that were not their fault.