The compensation of attorneys in the United States can differ significantly depending on a number of criteria, including the attorney’s reputation and track record, geographic location, area of specialization, experience level, and kind of employer.
As of my most recent update, this is a basic summary of what attorneys should expect to make in the United States:
Beginning Salary for New Lawyers: For recently graduated lawyers, entry-level compensation might differ greatly. The highest starting wages (referred to as “Big Law”) are sometimes offered by large legal firms in urban regions; these salaries can vary from $160,000 to $190,000 annually. Smaller businesses and those located outside of major cities, however, might offer much lower starting salaries—starting anywhere from $50,000 to $70,000.
Salaries in the Public Sector: Attorneys employed by government organizations or nonprofits generally receive lower compensation than those in private practice. Starting pay for public defenders, prosecutors, and attorneys employed by the government often ranges from $50,000 to $70,000, depending on the agency and locality.
Lawyer Salaries with Experience: Salary increases can be significant as one gains experience. Partners or senior attorneys at large legal firms can make anywhere from high six figures to several million dollars a year, especially if they have a share in the firm’s earnings. Mid-level associates at these companies often make between $200,000 and $300,000.
Specialization: Salary levels in specialized legal fields may also be higher. Attorneys that focus on corporate law, intellectual property, or certain litigation matters, for instance, could be able to make more money than attorneys in other practice areas.
In-House Counsel: Although in-house counsel for big businesses usually makes less money than attorneys in private practice, they can nevertheless command high compensation, particularly for senior positions or when bonuses and stock options are offered.
Geographic Variation: Pay tends to be lower in smaller cities and villages and higher in major places with greater cost of living, such as New York City, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.
In 2021, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the average yearly salary for attorneys was around $126,930. On the other hand, the top 10% earned over $208,000, while the bottom 10% made less than $61,490.
It’s crucial to remember that these numbers could fluctuate, and that the most recent information may be found by consulting the BLS or other employment statistics resources.