A lawyer’s salary depends on a variety of factors. Examples of the variant factors include the type of position held by the lawyer and the geographic location where a lawyer practices. For instance, a lawyer who works as a local public defender generally makes less than an attorney who works for a large private practice. Similarly, an attorney who works in a less populated area often makes less than an attorney who works in a major metropolitan area.
Overall, the median salary for an attorney is a little over $118 thousand dollars a year. Lawyers who make $175 thousand dollars a year find themselves in the upper 75th percentile for attorney salaries. On the other end of the spectrum, lawyers who make $77 thousand dollars a year or less find themselves in the lower 25th percentile of attorney salaries. The average salary of reported incomes for attorneys combined equates to roughly $139 thousand dollars a year.
However, even within a particular area of practice, much variation exists. For example, while a county assistant prosecutor usually earns a salary on the lower end of the salary spectrum, a federal assistant prosecutor usually makes a salary that’s closer to the median salary for all lawyers. Additionally, a new-hire or an associate attorney in a large private practice law firm often makes less than a partner or shareholder in a large private practice law firm.
While the area of practice and geographic location of practice are two major factors that impact a lawyer’s salary, those factors do not exhaust the variations that affect an attorneys income and certain nuances exist even within those variants. For instance, a solo practitioner who has a successful personal injury law firm in a smaller metropolitan area might have more salary upside when compared to a lawyer who practices in a major metropolitan as a partner in a large private practice. The reason for the potential upside difference is due to the fact that a solo practitioner might achieve a significant monetary judgment for an injured client, and the solo practitioner earns a percentage of the significant monetary judgment, whereas a partner in a large practice usually bills at an hourly rate for a client, so the likelihood of a huge windfall of money is less.
Finally, a lawyers salary is ultimately determined by demand. Lawyers provide risk management guidance or litigation services to clients. As more law schools open, and more lawyers become licensed to practice law, the legal market becomes flooded and demand lessens.