For many parents, their dream for their child is to be one of two things: A lawyer or a doctor. Both have a great deal of responsibility, a decent deal of education, and most importantly for some a large salary. Likewise, many people feel a call to law, either to defend those wrongly accused or prosecute for those who have been hurt. Here, we take a look at how much attorneys make, and what it takes to be an attorney in 2017.
Average Salary for Attorneys 2018 – $80,000
While salaries can vary greatly for Lawyers and Attorneys, most can expect a somewhere near $80,000 a year, with a vast majority of attorneys reaching over $50,000 as a starting salary. As with many “big name” jobs, attorneys who want to earn more may want to specialize in a sub field that’s popular at the moment.
At time of writing, the money is primarily in Intellectual Property Law (not surprising, as almost everyone and their grandmother has the next great app), followed by complex litigation management, and to a lesser extent contract management. Unfortunately, there are some fields that also consistently perform below average in terms of wages. These include legal research, case management and technical writing, which while all are essential in the profession, have between 6 and 9% lower salaries than the rest of their cohort. Over time and with experience, this can be compensated for in experience, as those that stay in the field over 20 years tend to have over one and a half times the salary of their entry level competition.
While the average for attorneys overall is around $80,000, this is skewed mostly due to the new entry level attorneys within the field. As mentioned earlier, those with experience make much more and usually have around $150,000 in earnings year over year, not including potential bonuses that may be given in some firms.
How to Become an Attorney – Do you need to go to school?
While people can be their own legal counsel without any training in law, for those that wish to practice law on behalf of others, school is absolutely needed.
To begin with, graduation of high school and acceptance into a university is a must for the attorney to be. Attorneys do not have to take explicit “Pre-Law” majors, though coursework in the field is encouraged if you can manage it. What is needed however, is a well rounded course load and a high GPA- Many law schools frown on applications that have below a 3.2, no matter what major you choose. One exception to this rule is patent and property law, that usually requires an undergraduate career with some law coursework but a focus on the field of interest (for example, those wanting to do pharmaceutical patent law may want degrees in either chemistry or biology). Regardless of major, a few letters of recommendation certainly won’t hurt your journey to Law School.
Next, when you are close to graduating, you will need to begin studying for an taking the LSAT. The Law School Admission Test. Unlike its medical counterpart, the MCAT, the LSAT does not require what one could call specific subject knowledge. Instead, the exam practices two key skills for those who would be attorneys in the future: Verbal reasoning and reading skills, which do contain multiple logic puzzles. The result of this exam is nearly equal to GPA for most schools in terms of selecting candidates, so a high score is very much desired.
If there is a gap year between you taking your LSAT exam and Law School, consider getting an entry level job within the field of law, or getting an internship of some manner while still in school. This will show a level of dedication to the field and make you a more prospective candidate than your competition.
After taking the LSAT, one can expect several more years of education within law school. Finally, this will culminate in a state BAR exam, where prospective attorneys are given their final test. If this exam is passed, one can begin practicing law, and thus begin to make the wages appropriate for an attorney.