How Much Do Lawyers Make? Laywer Job Description and Salary

Lawyers represent their r clients in civil or criminal trials. They usually present evidence and argue their clients cases in court. As the advisers to their clients, they try to explain to them their legal rights and obligations and suggest the best forms of action to take in their business or personal affairs. Whatever capacity a lawyer is working in, they should conduct proper research on legal and judicial decisions and apply the law to the particular case that they are working on. There are different kinds of lawyers depending on their main areas of specialty. For example, trail lawyers, patent lawyers, private lawyers, insurance lawyers, environmental lawyers and government lawyers. There are other areas of specialty such as international law and bankruptcy.

Job description of lawyers

a-group-of-lawyersAs a lawyer, you are expected to advise your clients about various business transactions, claim liability and about their legal rights and obligations. You should also interpret the law, rulings and regulations for your clients. If your clients have a case, you should be able to analyze the possible outcomes of the case using your legal knowledge. You should also present and summarize cases to judges and juries. Be able to assess findings and come up with strategies and arguments that are solid in preparation for the presentation of cases. You should also collect evidence so as to initiate legal proceedings through various means such as interviewing clients and any witnesses to get the facts of the case.

You should also be ready to represent your clients in court or before any other government agencies, examine legal information to establish the best ways of defending or prosecuting lawsuit. During the period of trail, you are expected to meet with judges, argue motions and question witnesses. Provide evidence to defend clients in criminal or civil litigation. You are also responsible for the preparation of legal documents such as leases, will, mortgages, contracts and deeds. You should also file appeals for your clients in state and federal courts of appeal. The law field is broad and wide and a single lawyer can do hundreds of different functions. Most lawyers change their positions severally over the course of their career. Each position may need different types of skills which need extensive retraining.

How much do lawyers make?

Although being a lawyer is financially rewarding, the salaries of lawyers vary a lot. In May 2010, the Bureau Labor Statistics reported that the mean annual salary of a lawyer is $130,880 which is equal to a mean $62.93 hourly salary. The least paid lawyers earned $54,310 while the highest paid earned $168,010. However, there is a very big disparity in the salaries of lawyers depending on the field of law you practice and the state you live in. Corporate sector lawyers make a lot of money compared to their counterparts who work in the public service sector. Entry level corporate lawyers can earn $105,000 in a small firm and more than $160,000 in a big firm. However, the competition for these corporate jobs is very stiff and the best paying companies are extremely choosy. You will need to be a graduate of Harvard or Stanford schools, possess excellent GPA and have a great resume.
On the other hand, the salary for an entry level public service lawyer is $50,050. If you are an attorney with more than 10 years experience, you can expect to make $78,600 for the similar position. If you are a prosecutor working for a local government, you can earn $50,000 in your first year; slightly higher in bigger companies. Although these jobs do not pay as well as other fields, student loan forgiveness is usually a part of a new attorneys hiring package.

There are some other attorneys that can make huge chunks of money. For example, patent lawyers who have some years of experience can make an average salary of more than $200,000 in a year. Trail lawyers who work for very rich clients can also earn very large salaries of between $500,000 to about $40 million annually.

The location a lawyer works in also affects the salary they earn. Those lawyers who work in cities that are located on the east and west coasts often earn better salaries than their counterparts who work in middle of the country. For instance, in San Jose, lawyers earn about $192,020; in San Francisco they earn $167,130. Lawyers who work in New York earn about $166,133 and in Washington they earn an average salary of $153,520. While these salaries are higher than those in other cities, the cost of living is also high and it should be put into consideration.

In comparison, lawyers in Montana make an average of $82,380 while lawyers in Oklahoma make $86,640. Those in rural areas earn even much less; about $ 50,000 annually. However, the cost of living in such areas is very minimal and the work is also light compared to those who work in larger cities.

Those lawyers who have their own private firms increase their salaries. Additionally, seasoned lawyers who specialize in high profile cases often earn more than the typical office lawyer. Depending on the case, these lawyers can make millions of dollars in a year.

Work environment

The beauty of this profession is that lawyers can work in many different types of environment. Most lawyers work for more than 55 hours in a week while others have very flexible work hours. There are some lawyers that choose to work from their home while others go into private practice. In fact, most lawyers are into private practice. They work with other lawyers in big or start up small law firms. The big law firms have hundreds of lawyers with many legal secretaries and paralegals. There are also some other lawyers that work for private businesses or in the public. Those who work for a private business are known as the in-house-counsel for the business. There are also those lawyers who are only interested in social issues and they work in community organizations. Those lawyers in private practice may have irregular working hours including weekends while carrying out research. You may be expected to travel especially if you specialize in international law.


There is intense competition for law school and this is one of the main challenges for anyone wishing to join the law career. You are expected to have a four year college degree and complete three years of law school. After the formal training, you should pass very strict bar exams before you can qualify to be a lawyer.

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