It is no secret that the vast majority of the nation’s more than 1.3 million lawyers are well paid. Overall, when all lawyer salaries are considered, the median salary is just north of $120,000. And after four years of college and another three in law school, lawyers need to make decent money just to be able to pay off their student loans. 

However, like in any profession, what each individual lawyer makes can vary greatly. 

A first-year lawyer who takes a job in the public defender’s office is going to make a fraction of what an equity partner at a large firm located in a major metropolitan area makes. Indeed, geographic location matters a great deal. Lawyers that work in big cities on either coast or in places like Chicago and Houston are often going to have starting salaries over $100,000. 

In addition to geographic area, the area of law an attorney practices in can significantly impact their earning potential. As noted above, lawyers that work in the public sector aren’t going to make as much as those that work in the private sector. But even within private firms, there are some practice areas that pay more than others. 

Personal Injury Lawyers

At or very near the top of the list of highest-paid types of lawyers are personal injury lawyers. In the personal injury niche, lawyers specialize in representing individuals who have been injured due to the negligence of another party. 

Types of cases that fall under the personal injury umbrella include:

Interestingly, many personal injury lawyers don’t charge traditional fees for their services. Instead, they often work on a contingency fee basis, meaning they take a certain percentage of the total money awarded in the case.

Patent Lawyers

Another of the highest-paid types of lawyers are patent lawyers. Patent lawyers are in high demand as it requires a unique skill set in order to be able to do the job effectively. Usually, in addition to having a law degree, skilled patent lawyers will have a background in engineering. This allows them to understand the fundamentals of the patents they are applying for and protecting on behalf of their clients.

It is not uncommon for patent lawyers to earn more than $130,000 even early on in their careers. And as they gain experience, they can make even more.

Corporate Lawyers

Corporate lawyers work with large companies advising them, defending them when they are in potential legal trouble, and helping them navigate the complex legal waters of mergers and acquisitions. Because of the multifaceted nature of this area of law, and because big companies are willing to pay handsomely for the services of quality corporate lawyers, it is common for corporate lawyers to make well over $200,000 a year.

Tax Attorneys

Another type of attorney that works closely with companies—and is paid well for doing so—is a tax attorney. Tax attorneys prepare tax documents and advise companies on how to comply with the enormous U.S. tax code. Because the work is so complex and challenging, tax attorneys command high annual salaries.

It can also be an area of the law that has high stakes. If a company is being investigated by the government at the federal or state level, it means the lawyer has to do everything in their power to defend their client. There can sometimes be millions of dollars on the line.

Choosing the Right Lawyer

No matter what legal matter you are dealing with, you don’t always need to choose the highest-paid lawyer. Instead, you should search for the right lawyer. A good lawyer is one that has plenty of experience, communicates well, and is surrounded by a strong support team. 

If you can find a lawyer who meets those criteria, you will most likely be well represented on your day in court.