Determining the top paying careers in the legal field can be trickier than you might think. Not only is there a variety of potential jobs for legal professionals, the lucrative nature of those jobs can vary depending on a range of factors including geographical location, experience level and the type of practice involved, such as corporate or public.
Generally speaking, in almost any locale trial lawyers have one of the most lucrative of legal careers. Among trial lawyers, those who handle the most high stakes cases tend to make the most money. The average salary for trial lawyers is around $110,000, but solo practitioners and public defenders tend to make considerably less.
Two of the other top paying careers in law involve corporate law. Chief legal officers, attorneys who handle the legal affairs of a corporation, can earn as much as $400,000, depending on the size and status of the corporation itself. At the same time, law firm administrators, who handle the non-legal aspects of running a law firm such as human resources and business management, can earn upwards of $500,000 depending on their geographic location.
Another area connected to the running of a law firm that is rapidly rising among the legal careers with the best salaries is the litigation support director. These are individuals who manage the technology a law firm uses to assist in litigation. Document management, cloud computing and other IT skills are quickly making these individuals indispensible and driving salaries as high as $70,000 a year and more in some cases.
Not surprisingly, judges are still among the top paying careers in law. Judges can be found at every level of the legal system, from local to federal, and salaries vary depending on jurisdiction. While local and state judges earn between $50,000 and $150,000, federal judges can earn as much as $200,000 per year.
Along with a nice salary, most judges can also expect to reap a healthy amount of benefits. These can range from health benefits and expense accounts to comfortable retirement packages. Of course, becoming a judge is not always easy. In most cases, you have to be a practicing attorney for a specified number of years and then you must earn an appointment to gain the position.
Aside from the possibilities mentioned here, another of the top paying careers in law is that of the law school professor. It’s not easy to secure a position as a professor, as it requires a law degree from a top school, law review, law practice experience and other particular qualifications. But if you can manage to work your way onto a law school faculty, you’ll be looking at a yearly salary of anywhere from $100,000 to $400,000.
Another emerging field is that of Independent Paralegals. Some states like Arizona, California and Washington are starting to regulate this field. In California, they are known as Legal Document Assistants and can meet with the public and prepare documents under their client’s supervision. This is a very lucrative, expanding career for those who would like to have their own business and earnings can range from $25,000 to over $200,000 depending on the location and how much marketing/work the independent paralegal wants to put into building their business.
When it comes to legal careers, the possibilities are certainly varied. And fortunately for legal professionals, it is one of the few areas that have not taken a hit from the recent recession. So if you can hold your ground and put together the right qualifications, you could be looking at an extremely profitable and healthy career.
The author of this blog is not an attorney and the information contained in these blogs should not be considered legal advice. The information provided here is based on the experience of the author and some of her clients whose actual names are not mentioned. Do not hesitate to seek the advice of an attorney if you have any legal questions.