How Much Do Lawyers Make?

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If you’re thinking about pursuing a career in law, you’re probably wondering what the salary of a lawyer is. You know you can have a stable income as a lawyer, but that doesn’t tell you how much you can make out in the workforce.

Every lawyer is different. Several factors determine how much you’ll make, including what field of law you work to how much experience you have. The salaries of lawyers range quite a bit, and you’re not going to start out at a high salary.

To give you an idea of how much a lawyer makes yearly, we’ll go over the different salaries for different law practices. We’ll also go over how different lawyers charge their clients.

How Do Lawyers Get Paid?

Every lawyer charges their clients differently. The legal terms that get thrown around can be difficult to understand if you haven’t attended law school. So, we’re going to break down some of the vocabulary regarding lawyer fees so you can understand how lawyers make their money.

  • Contingency Fees: The majority of personal injury lawyers don’t get paid up front. Instead, they have contingency fees. This means that your lawyer doesn’t get paid unless they win your case or negotiate with the other party. Once they’ve learned all the details of your case, they determine whether or not they think they can win your case. They want a case that can win so they can help you and help themselves. The amount of a lawyer’s contingency fee depends on your individual case. In most cases though, a personal injury lawyer will charge you 33% of the money you’re awarded. On the more expensive side, some personal injury lawyers will charge you 40% of your awarded money.
  • Consultation Fees: Consultation fees are the fees lawyers charge to examine a case and give a client advice on what their next step should be. Some lawyers give free consultations online or over the phone. This also gives the client a chance to decide if this is the right lawyer for them. Those who get paid hourly usually charge a consultation fee while a lawyer with a flat fee is more likely to give you a free consultation.
  • Flat Fees: Criminal defense lawyers and contract lawyers are big on charging flat fees. Most of their work for a client is routine, from going over and verifying a contract to filing an appeal for a defendant. A flat fee works best in these situations since they know the entire process and how long that process takes.
  • Hourly Fees: Hourly fees are when a lawyer gets paid by the hour. They can charge their clients for each hour spent meeting up with them or even charge their clients for phone calls dealing with their case. Lawyers who choose hourly fees don’t work routine cases. If they don’t know how long your case is going to take, they’ll charge you an hourly fee.
  • Retainer Fees: A retainer fee is a fee that a client pays their lawyer before the client’s case even begins. Many corporations have lawyers on retainer for any legal advice and needs they may have since they’re involved in legal proceedings often. Other lawyers charge a retainer fee to pay for filing fees and other charges.

What are Pro-Bono Cases?

We’ve all heard the term pro-bono get thrown around when speaking about lawyers, but what exactly does a pro-bono case entail?

Pro-bono is a shortened Latin phrase for “for the good of the people,” the original saying being “pro bono publico.”

When a lawyer takes on a pro-bono case, they’re helping someone without the money to hire a lawyer. The client either pays very little to the lawyer or doesn’t pay anything.

These pro-bono cases are taken on for many reasons. Sometimes a lawyer will take on a case out of the goodness of their heart and because they genuinely want to help a client who’s struggling.

Other lawyers are required by their law firm to take on so many pro-bono cases a year, particularly if the case is big and will help bring attention to their firm.

So, how does a lawyer get paid for a pro-bono case? In most cases, they don’t receive a penny. However, if there’s a third party invested in the outcome of the case, they may pay the lawyer to cover the court costs for the client.

How Much Do Lawyers Make Yearly?

Every lawyer has a different yearly pay average. So, we picked the top types of lawyers and how much most of these lawyers make after some experience under their belt.

  • Bankruptcy Lawyer: A bankruptcy lawyer makes on average $115,000 a year
  • Civil Rights Lawyer: A civil rights lawyer makes on average $80,000 a year
  • Contract Lawyer: A contract lawyer makes on average $90,000 a year
  • Corporate Lawyer: A corporate lawyer makes an average of $100,000 a year
  • Criminal Defense Lawyer: A criminal defense lawyer makes an average of $80,000 a year
  • Disability Lawyer: A disability lawyer makes an average of $120,000 a year
  • Family Lawyer: A family lawyer makes an average of $70,000 a year
  • Intellectual Property Lawyer: An intellectual property lawyer makes an average of $130,000 a year
  • Medical Malpractice: A medical malpractice lawyer makes an average of $130,000 a year
  • Patent Lawyer: A patent lawyer makes on average $130,000 a year
  • Personal Injury Lawyer: A personal injury lawyer makes on average $75,000 a year
  • Real Estate Lawyer: A real estate lawyer makes on average $115,000 a year
  • Tax Lawyer: A tax lawyer makes on average $100,000 a year

According to U.S. News, the average that lawyers earned in 2017 was $119,250. The average of top lawyers of 2017 made around $178,480, and the lowest paid lawyers made about $78,130.


There’s good money in becoming a lawyer to make up for all those student loans and tuition prices for a good law school. We hope this article helped answer your question about how much lawyers really make behind the scenes.

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