Home Jobs & Education How Much Do Lawyers Make in 2018?

Lawyers advise and represent individuals, corporations, businesses, or government agencies through legal disputes and issues; But how much does a lawyer make a year? Well, the answer heavily depends on location, industry, knowledge, and experience.

Also referred to as attorneys, lawyers typically carry the responsibility of representing clients in courts, conducting analysis/research of legal matters, interpreting laws, presenting facts effectively in writing or orally, and preparing legal documents, such as contracts, deeds, or lawsuits. Lawyers act as advocates and advisors to one of the parties involved in criminal or civil trials in the argument of their case.

lawyer in her office Salary

According to the Payscale record, the mean annual lawyer salary is $81,439, which is equivalent to a mean $47.01 hourly wage. These numbers are changing pretty quickly, and thee are some differences from year to year.

How Much Does a Lawyer Make a Year Depending on Their Level?

Let’s have a look at the different types of attorneys and how much they earn:

1. Attorney I

Attorney I is the name given to entry-level lawyers. In general, they review contracts and drafts of important agreements. Furthermore, they offer legal advice to organizations, prepare documents, reports, etc. The median yearly salary for such a position is $91,173. There can be quite a difference here as well. For instance, the first 25% reach a yearly pay of $79,198, while the top 25% can gain as much as $104,725.

2. Attorney II

This category starts off with the same responsibilities as the ones we mentioned for Attorney I. However, they have some extra tasks as well, not to mention a request of 2 to 4 years of experience. Also called an intermediate level attorney, the position offers a median yearly pay of $121,264. The bottom 25% only gain $102,356, while the top quarter can gain an average yearly pay of $141,693.

3. Attorney III

We’re getting closer and closer to the most generous answers to the question of how much does a lawyer make a year. With the attorney III position, we are talking about more responsibilities and tasks at work. Here, the lawyer gains more freedom and independence in his work. Usually, this position requires an experience between 4 and 7 years in the field. Also called a senior attorney, this job comes with a median annual pay of $161,913. While the bottom quarter gains, on average, $140,538 a year, the top one reaches $183,594.

4. Real Estate Attorney

Moving on to a different side of the lawyer position, we need to tackle the pay for a real estate attorney. For this job, you can expect an annual average pay of $139,186. Of course, the bottom 25% gains on average $121,363, while the upper quarter reaches $154,262.

5. Judge/Magistrate

We wouldn’t have a complete image of how much do lawyers make if we didn’t include the judges/magistrates here as well. $160,336 is the median yearly pay here. The lower quarter gains an average of $157,273, while the upper one reaches an amount of $179,433.

How Much Do Lawyers Make? – Factors that Influence the Answer


Naturally, the answer to this question varies a lot depending on the location. Let’s see what are the top locations where a lawyer can get a job and make the most money out of it:

Location Median Salary Total
San Francisco $120,000
Washington $116,645
Seattle $108,901
Los Angeles $106,943
New York $101,076

Lawyers work predominately within an office setting, but some travel to attend meetings with clients at homes, prisons, and hospitals. Others spend their time preparing for and appearing before courts to represent their clients. The setting depends upon the specific title the lawyer holds, such as prosecutor, defense attorney, corporate counsel, tax lawyer, and so on. Many lawyers work long hours that go above and beyond full-time, within high-pressure situations.

75% of lawyers are employed in private practice, and an additional 8% are employed by the local, state, or federal government. Almost half of the private practitioners work on their own.


This is yet another factor that influences how much lawyers make. Let’s have a look at the levels of experience and the resulting median yearly pay, according to Payscale:

  • Entry-level attorney (less than 5 years of experience): $70,000;
  • Mid-career lawyer (5 – 10 years of experience): $98,000;
  • Experienced attorney (10 – 20 years of experience): $119,000;
  • Late-career experience (more than 20 years of experience): $139,000.

General Outlook

Employment for law school graduates is expected to grow at a normal rate of 8 percent by 2026 since the need for legal services of individuals, companies, or government offices and agencies cannot be strongly affected by financial or social factors.

However, more and more law firms find themselves in need of cutting back costs by assigning tasks that were handled by lawyers to paralegals or outsourcing them. This is happening because clients demand lower prices and many medium-sized or big companies realize it’s more convenient to hire their own full-time legal advisor or collaborate with a self-employed lawyer.

Prospects for Law School Graduates

Like many others, employers who are looking for a lawyer require advanced knowledge on the subject – an attribute that many graduates have – but they also tend to hire experienced lawyers, giving little chances to beginners. Therefore, many law school graduates turn to temporary staffing firms which help them obtain temporary, “project-based” jobs to get the needed experience.

Competition in the field is fierce for young lawyers, and flexibility is a must since companies willing to employ an inexperienced practitioner are rarely located in the same area code. Therefore, relocation or long commutes are needed in many cases.

Summing Up

There is an increasing need for lawyers, and whoever works in the field should be well aware of that. However, even though many say that the pays in the field are good, they differ a lot. As such, young Law graduates need to pay attention to factors such as location, experience, degree, etc.


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