Whether you are interested in going to law school or are currently enrolled, choosing which area of law to specialize in can be a daunting task for some of us. Luckily, there are many databases and studies done to help understand the job market and pay expectations for becoming a full-time attorney in any legal practice.
The pay salaries of lawyers are just as broad as the field of law itself. In 2018, PayScale.com released a number of $86,000 as the national median pay per year for an Attorney/Lawyer. Within the law, the highest paying skill was Intellectual Property (IP) law.
Depending on the city, your pay scale will vary. Cities like San Francisco, Washington, Los Angeles and Seattle are at least 20% above the national median ($86,000), when cities like Miami are below -7%. The options listed from least to greatest below go into detail explaining the differences, pros, cons and takeaways from each practice area.
7. Family Lawyer Salary
Median salary: $69,248 per year
Family Lawyer Median Salary: $69,248Payscale.com
Privately owned sectors are the higher earners in this group of lawyers. They provide expert legal representation for clients in court with cases that relate to family law. Being a successful family law attorney requires excellent communication skills due to the personal and emotional nature of these cases.
The field of family law consists of custody agreements, prenuptial agreements, adoption and more commonly, divorce. A real-life example would be when a divorce lawyer helps establish a fair way to divide the common belongings.
6. Civil Rights Lawyer Salary
Median salary: $80,974 per year
Civil Rights Lawyer Median Salary: $80,974Payscale.com
Civil rights lawyers fight to uphold and protect our civil rights, the core rights given to the citizens of the United States that are based on the Constitution. With a median salary of $80,974 per year, this provides a modest income at a state lawyer level. The salary of an expert in the field of civil rights law can also soar as high as $200,000 per year.
These lawyers take on cases that involve discrimination of our core values such as race, age, gender and religion. Usually, civil rights attorneys will specialize in a specific niche like helping those who have been unlawfully discriminated against at a workplace or those who are arrested. Coming in sixth place, the civil rights lawyer's income can vary but can be very promising depending on experience.
5. Criminal Defense Lawyer Salary
Median salary: $80,978 per year; Pay for this job increases for more experienced lawyers, but at the same time decreases tremendously for attorneys with more than 20 years' experience.
Criminal Defense Lawyer Median Salary: $80,978Payscale.com
As a criminal defense lawyer, it is important to understand that there are two different types of attorneys: the defense counsel and the prosecutors. Prosecutors are responsible for representing the state and bringing criminal charges against the individual on trial, while the defense attorney represents the person(s) accused of committing a crime.
Criminal defense lawyers can include anything from defending a drunk from a DUI charge, prosecuting a murderer for their unforgivable actions to a sex crimes attorney protecting a client falsely accused of rape or child abuse. With the help of legal research and evidence, a criminal defense lawyer must argue on behalf of their client.
4. Real Estate Lawyer Salary
Median salary: $81,741 per year; Dependent on which law firm and the hourly rate charged at. Experts say that "working in a large firm or becoming a partner increases a real estate lawyer's pay."
As a real estate lawyer, you would help clients with commercial and residential cases such as issues with tenants, neighbors or property development. This role is heavily focused around documentation and rigorous contracts. The abilities to sift through lease agreements and pay high attention to detail are required for this job.
Though their median salary hovers around $81,741 per year, the highly professional contract negotiators are the real estate attorneys who bring in the high paying salaries of $150,000 per year or greater. Careful reading and precise contract drafting is the key to success in this field of law. Inching up into fourth place, real estate lawyers take their claim.
Real Estate Lawyer Median Salary: $81,741Payscale.com
3. Personal Injury Lawyer Salary
Median salary: $81,829 per year; In this profession, experience has a medium increasing effect on salary growth.
Personal Injury Lawyer Median Salary: $81,829Payscale.com
Personal injury is an extremely broad practice in law. A personal injury attorney represents clients who have been injured due to someone else's negligence. For example, a Huntsville car accident attorney may just focus on people who were involved in a motor vehicle accident.
Another example is an even more unexpected type of accident: slip and falls. A Walmart slip and fall lawyer who works at Walmart would help in defending the client in instances where the client slipped, fell and got injured on Walmart premises due to the store's negligence. The flexibility of cases, the potential for late-career growth and salary increases boost this practice up into the top three.
2. Medical Malpractice Lawyer Salary
Median salary: $86,476 per year
These lawyers are similar to personal injury lawyers but have slight differences. They have a passion, or at least an interest, in helping people that have been injured due to the negligence of a medical establishment or healthcare professional. Scenarios like over-prescribing, prescribing the wrong medicine and misdiagnosis are a few cases they may help with.
Dealing with sometimes life-threatening mistakes, these lawyers provide kind and caring guidance through the legal process. Building medical case theories, interviewing expert witnesses, analyzing medical records and other medical malpractice lawsuits tend to take up most of the time of a medical malpractice attorney. A median salary of $86,476 per year puts medical lawyers just barely before first place in second.
Medical Malpractice Lawyer Median Salary: $86,476Payscale.com
1. Tax Lawyer Salary
Median Salary: $99,053
A national median salary of $101,000 per year secures the tax lawyers as number one in our list of top paid lawyers in 2018. According to Payscale.com, "career length is the biggest factor affecting pay for this group, followed by geography."
These attorneys are responsible for providing guidance to clients through the tiniest of details of tax law. Tax attorneys provide legal counsel to corporations and to those that are undergoing an audit or facing penalties with the IRS. Most corporations will have a tax lawyer as part of their legal team to help prevent financial-costing decisions when reporting the revenue. Being a valuable asset in the foundation of our government and big businesses, tax lawyer salaries take it home with first place and a whopping potential to make $200,000 a year.
Tax Lawyer Median Salary: $99,053Payscale.com