Lawyers serve as advocates for many different groups of people, including victims of crime, businesses, government agencies and accused criminal and civil defendants. Lawyers must be able to address their clients' needs within the complex legal system. For their efforts lawyers receive generally high salaries, although there is a great deal of wage diversity within the field.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2008 the median annual salary for a lawyer is just over $110,000. Based on a standard work schedule, this translates to weekly earnings of $2,115. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also notes that half of all lawyers earn between $75,000 and $163,000 a year, or between $1,442 and $3,135 each week. Inexperienced lawyers less than a year out of law school may average weekly pay in the $1,300 range.
Employment and Compensation
Lawyers' salaries vary widely based on many factors, including type of employment. Many lawyers are self-employed and either run their own practices or serve as partners in larger firms, providing labor on a contractual basis. Lawyers who are partners in large firms, or work for the government, typically have the highest weekly and annual wages, while those who found their own practices have higher income ceilings if the practices succeed but lower income initially. Some lawyers who found their own practices need to find additional work to earn a living while the practice is in its initial stages.
According to the Law Schools website, a number of other factors impact a lawyer's weekly wages. For example, lawyers who specialize in corporate law stand to earn, on average, twice as much as those who specialize in criminal law. There are also regional differences in what a lawyer can expect to earn each week, with employers in populous states containing big cities, such as New York and California, supplying higher average weekly earnings than employers in other states.
Just as region affects a lawyer's average weekly earnings, it also changes with the cost of living. For example, a lawyer working in New York City may earn more than one with similar skills and experience in a smaller city, but will also likely pay more for a place to live and commuting costs. The high cost of education also offsets a lawyer's weekly salary. In addition to a four-year degree, lawyers typically need three years of law school before being able to pass a state bar exam and begin working. This often means high monthly student loan payments, which consume a significant portion of some lawyers' weekly paychecks.