It’s no secret that lawyers have a reputation for earning high salaries. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, attorneys in 2021 earned an average of $148,000 annually, which means that lawyers are some of the highest-paid individuals in the country.
However, not all lawyers make the same salary. Legal pay varies widely and depends on factors like experience, practice area, and geographic location.
According to the state bar, California is home to over 190,000 active attorneys. Some will earn much more than others.
The Main Factors that Determine Attorney Salaries
Law is a wide-ranging field, and different situations will affect wages, bonuses, fees, and other payments.
To better understand who the highest-paid lawyers are, it’s vital to distinguish the most critical factors that impact annual earnings.
Some of these factors include:
- Years of legal experience
- Private practice vs. public practice
- City and state
- Annual caseload
- Individual fees and rates
- Type of law practiced
One of the key factors that affect salaries is geographical location. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, six of the top ten highest-paid cities for attorneys in the United States are in California.
Private Practice Lawyers Typically Earn Greater Wages
The main determining factor for wages comes from an attorney’s preferred legal practice. Some areas of practice tend to be more lucrative than others. Just as with other professions, clients range greatly across socioeconomic status. As such, pay will generally depend on the case type and the client.
Private practice lawyers generally earn more than public interest lawyers. As a rule of thumb, the highest-paid areas of law involve higher-paying clients.
Some of the top-earning attorney jobs include the following areas of law:
- Corporate law
- Complex litigation
- Medical malpractice
- Personal injury
- Intellectual property
- Maritime law
Additionally, many specialized legal fields require niche knowledge and training. Lawyers in these fields will charge clients higher fees for their work because of higher demand and limited attorney availability.
Also, lawyers involved in any type of financial settlement cases are likely to earn higher wages, especially when these settlements result in big payouts, such as class-action lawsuits.
On the other hand, public service lawyers are likely to earn far lower wages due to the clientele they serve. Some of these include:
- Public defenders
- Environmental law attorneys
- Civil rights attorneys
- Attorneys employed by nonprofits
Experience is also a critical factor in attorneys’ wages. Lawyers with solid backgrounds are more likely to land higher-paying roles, whether private or public. Some positions that rely on experience include:
- City, county, or district attorneys
- In-house counsel for large organizations
- Agency directors
- Attorneys general
- Partners in private law firms
When an attorney has established a reputation for excellent work, the window of opportunity for higher-paying jobs increases, regardless of the legal field.
How Much Do Personal Injury Lawyers Earn?
One of the most popular yet competitive legal practices is personal injury law.
Unlike other attorneys, who generally charge by the hour or according to a contract, most personal injury attorneys don’t charge fees upfront.
Instead, personal injury attorneys primarily rely on a payment model called contingency fees. These fees are only paid if the attorney is successful. In other words, personal injury attorneys are only paid out whenever they can recover a settlement or win a verdict.
Most personal injury contingency fees range between 33% and 40% of the total amount awarded. This amount is determined before beginning a case, and the percentage usually depends on the type of personal injury and complexity of the claim.
Contact Our Personal Injury Law Firm in Los Angeles, CA
If you were injured in an accident in Los Angeles, CA or you lost a loved one and you need legal assistance, please contact us to schedule a free consultation. One of our Los Angeles personal injury lawyers at M&Y Personal Injury Lawyers will get in touch with you soon.