In the United States, the lawyer profession is one that holds much prestige and admiration. But when you ask children what they want to do when they grow up, most of the time they do not aspire to become lawyers because they do not fully understand what lawyers do on a daily basis.

Instead, the kids will aspire to be firemen, policemen, or astronauts - professions that are often portrayed as exciting on television shows.

In fact, the law profession also has its own share of T.V. shows such as Suits which shed light on the profession and may inspire many to apply to law school. Salary-wise, lawyers are known to make large amounts.

But this salary comes at a cost as law schools across the United States can be expensive and difficult to get into and graduate from.

So is it worth becoming a lawyer? And how much can you make after you graduate from law school? Continue reading below to learn more about the average salaries of working lawyers in the United States.

Man dressed in a grey suit walking out of a building and staring down at his phone.
Learn more about the average salaries of working lawyers in the United States in this article. (Image Source: Unsplash)

Why Become a Lawyer

Becoming a lawyer may not be on top of everyone’s to-do list. For those of you who are on the fence about whether to get a law degree or not, consider the list of reasons why you might want to pursue a career in the law profession.

The Salary

This is one of the most common reasons some people decide to become lawyers. We live in a materialistic world after all, and money is one of the most important things in many people’s lives, especially for those who grow up in poverty.

And a law career is one of the few ways a person can escape poverty and afford a comfortable middle-class life for them and their families.

However, not all lawyers make a lot of money, especially those working for smaller employers or non-profit organizations. In those cases, the reasons those people work as lawyers may not be motivated by a lawyer’s wage.

Helping Others

Lawyers are powerful in the sense that they have the knowledge and training to help a lot of individuals, groups, and organizations navigate through tricky or confusing legal situations.

For public interest lawyers, their jobs can be especially rewarding as they practice law to advance the greater good of society as well as help people who require legal assistance but cannot afford an attorney.

For lawyers working in private practices, they can choose to do pro bono work for clients who cannot afford to pay them. Usually, these disadvantaged portions of the population will benefit greatly from professional law advice.

Many bar associations also require attorneys to complete a certain number of pro bono hours each year to contribute back into the community.

The Prestige

For those who are not drawn to the law profession for the pay, they may be in it for the prestige associated with becoming a lawyer. For some people, the profession that they do for a living is very important as it is tied to their personal identity, and becoming a lawyer can help them be seen by their social circles as being extremely prestigious and command a certain level of respect.

Interest in Law

Law is a broad subject that spans multiple industries, making it one of the most intellectually rewarding careers out there. Those interested in pursuing a law degree must enjoy reading volumes of law books during their studies as well as the ability to retain crucial information.

Having an interest in law will help prospective lawyers continue their pursuit of a career in law and to advise others on anything from patenting a trade secret, preparing trial strategies, to forming an expensive company merger.

Woman holding a mug staring at a computer screen.
Having an interest in law will help prospective lawyers continue their pursuit of a career in law. (Image source: Unsplash).

Qualities to Become a Successful Lawyer

Working as a lawyer requires an essential set of skills. Not everyone is naturally born with these skills. But don’t despair if you are not naturally blessed with public speaking skills or an analytical mind - skills can be learned and refined through practice and hard work.

Good Communication

Lawyers need to communicate ideas quickly and clearly especially to people who have no knowledge of the law. They also need to be able to choose their words very carefully such as when they are in a courtroom.

To practice your communication skills, consider joining a debate club at school or a Toastmasters club to practice your public speaking skills.

Dealing with All Types of People

When you work in the law field, you will come into contact with people from all walks of life. That’s why it’s important for you to be comfortable and capable of communicating with all types of people as well as interacting with them on a daily basis.

Hard Working

Law school can be difficult. You will need all the self-discipline you have as well as the mentality to work hard to successfully complete your law education. But it doesn’t end there.

Lawyers are known to have long working hours especially when you have a court date coming up or deadlines for signing documents to meet. Learning to be a hard worker can benefit you starting from your law school days to having a successful law career after you graduate from law school.

Average Salaries of U.S. Lawyers

In the United States, the process of becoming a lawyer is long. Aspiring lawyers must complete a bachelor’s degree first before they can start applying to law schools. This means many law school graduates will be under a lot of debt accumulated from four years of undergraduate education on top of the three years of law school.

It’s important to know how much a new lawyer will make during their first year on the job compared to how a lawyer’s salary will increase over time. Not only will this help law students budget better, but it can also help lawyers make plans to repay their student debts.

Once a law school student completes their law studies and also passes the Bar Exam, he or she will work as law associates to gain enough experience before they can practice on their own. The salaries of associate lawyers will vary depending on the size of the law firm they work for.

Generally, the larger the law firm the higher they will pay their associate lawyers. For law firms with 9 to 20 employees, the associate lawyer will receive $60,000 per year. The amount increases gradually as the number of lawyers in the firm increases. For law firms employing over 150 lawyers, the associate lawyer will enjoy a salary of $87,500 per year.

Once an associate lawyer has gained enough experience in the law field, they can either open their own law office to practice on their own, or work as a judge or in public law service positions. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary of lawyers in the United States in 2018 is $120,910 per year, which breaks down to $58.13 per hour.

The employment outlook for lawyers in the United States is projected to increase by six percent from 2018 to 2028. However, do note that competition for jobs as lawyers is also increasing over the next ten years as more law students are graduating from law school than there are law jobs available.

Hands typing on a laptop keyboard.
Competition for jobs as lawyers is also increasing over the next ten years. (Image source: Unsplash).

Tips on Securing a Good Paying Law Job

The first step to securing a good job placement as an associate lawyer is to do your research on the law firms you are interested in working for. As seen in the previous section, larger law firms employing more lawyers generally pay associate lawyers a high salary.

You can apply to these law firms to secure your chances of getting a better paying job.

Before you get that lucrative law job placement, you will need to win over your future employer by convincing them to hire you after a job interview.

That’s why it’s important to stand out amongst your law school peers by getting involved in leadership positions during your law school days, as well as participating in activities that will give you more experience and connections in the law industry.

And lastly, as the saying goes - fake it until you make it. This is important for your self-confidence levels as it is always good to be viewed as a confident person than someone who is not sure of what they are doing. Consider asking for help in topics you are not particularly sure about or doing your own research so you can feel more confident about a topic or area of study in law.

Find out about the bar exam here.

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Former high-school tutor with a passion for science and technology, I now work in the software industry and enjoy reading and learning about all kinds of topics.