How Much Do Lawyers Make Out of Law School? A Comprehensive Guide for Future Lawyers


How much do lawyers make out of law school? Considering the financial investment and time dedication required for law school, one may be curious about the average income of a law graduate out of school. The prospective earnings in this field are contingent upon factors such as geographical location, professional background, and discipline of expertise. You can assess whether a career fits your desired lifestyle and prepare for pay negotiations throughout your job hunt by researching salaries for law school graduates.

This article examines the typical compensation of attorneys, lists the salary ranges for each state, and examines the potential earnings of other legal occupations.

A picture taken behind a lineup of graduates - How Much Do Lawyers Make Out of Law School

Understanding Starting Salaries for Law School Graduates

Should I go to law school? Starting a law degree is costly. That’s why you need to factor in financial investment. Law school newbies should consider the long-term financial commitment and the time it takes to get their money back. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the average lawyer salary out of law school in the US is $163,770. Your income as an attorney will probably start low and rise with time, just like in most other professions. According to the BLS, the typical lawyer makes between $66,470 and $239,200 annually. It is assumed that attorneys who are just beginning out will earn lesser pay, while those who earn at the higher end of the scale are likely to have been practicing for years or even decades. 

The type of law you practice and the sectors you often work with might also impact the average wage for lawyers. However, based on your region and the size of the legal business, that figure may be significantly higher. 

How Much Do Lawyers Make Out of Law School?

The average salary after law school for a lawyer in the United States has reached $163,770. The salary of a lawyer is determined by a number of things. These include the nature and scale of the legal practice they’re part of.

Let’s consider entry-level lawyers at smaller firms, specifically those with a workforce of 50 or fewer. Back in 2021, their median salary was pegged at $85,000. This number saw a rise in slightly larger firms, those with 51 to 100 attorneys, reaching $127,500.

The sector also plays a role in salary differences. Lawyers in private practice generally earn more than those serving in the public sector. To give you a clearer picture, some of the big legal firms in major urban areas start their salaries at a whopping $215,000. That’s quite a leap, more than twice the median earnings of public service lawyers, even those with a solid 15 years under their belt.

Top-Paying Legal Specializations

The size, seniority, and specialization can affect the earning potential of a lawyer. A higher salary is conceivably achievable through specialized practice.

Position Average Salary (USD)
Patent Attorney $143,492
Corporate Attorney $137,364
Tax Attorney $134,322
Family Lawyer $128,809
Bankruptcy Lawyer $125,048
Intellectual Property Lawyer $119,583
Real Estate Attorney $105,938
Civil Litigation Attorney $101,177
Personal Injury Lawyer $89,686
Employment Law Associate $83,580

High Paying Locations for Lawyers

The geographical location where a lawyer practices is a highly influential determinant of their income. Factors such as the requirement for legal expertise in specific regions, the area’s living expenses, and the local economy’s condition often impact this disparity. 

For example, thriving cities with a strong corporate concentration and a higher cost of living usually pay more to represent the higher living standards and increased demand. In contrast, smaller or less economically active areas might offer lower salaries due to different market dynamics and living costs.

Five locations on the list of the highest-paying locations for lawyers were in California, while four were on the East Coast according to BLS statistics.

City Average Salary (USD)
San Jose, CA $231,200
San Francisco, CA $191,460
Washington, DC $186,610
New York, NY $183,870
Los Angeles, CA $177,550
Boston, MA $171,660
Bridgeport, CT $171,100
San Diego, CA $165,480
Midland, MI $164,430
Oxnard, CA $163,560

The Impact of Law School Reputation on Your Salary

How many years is law school? The legal profession requires seven years to complete due to its extensive training. A four-year bachelor’s degree must normally be completed before seeking a three-year juris doctor degree. After completing the required education, passing the bar exam is still mandatory. This exam requires additional study time and sometimes multiple attempts.

One of the many concerns is how much law school costs. Debt concerns many aspiring attorneys because the average law school debt is over $100,000. Weighing the expenditures and possible investment returns is essential while selecting a law school. 

Law school rankings are essential in determining future salary prospects, as graduates from prestigious law firms offering higher starting salaries after law school are often in high demand. Higher-ranked programs often have a higher tuition cost because they need more resources to maintain exceptional faculty and other assets. 

Many people find the potential for higher future earnings worth the investment. These advantages, such as a superior legal education and networks, can lead to long-term career success.

Three law graduates wearing academic togas taking a selfie - How Much Do Lawyers Make Out of Law School

How To Handle Law School Debt?

How to pay for law school? Many law students are often too busy to balance work and study. As a result, more than 95% graduate with $165,000 in student loan debt. However, debt varies according to the law school you attend. But with that debt in mind, is law school worth it? Yes, you simply need to be aware of your possibilities and properly manage your starting salary out of law school.

Law school is costly, so you must come up with a way to manage the costs of tuition, fees, and other relevant expenses. A common method to achieve this is by obtaining law school loans. This amount includes $108,000 in loans specifically from law school. Managing this debt could be challenging in the early years of your work.

Pick the Best Law School for You

By selecting the right legal school, you can enhance your capacity to earn and often speed up the repayment of your debts. The U.S. News reports that the school you choose to attend has a direct relationship with your initial pay. 

Among the top 15 institutions in the 2023 Best Law Institutions rankings, each had a median private sector salary of $190,000, which surpassed the salaries of all other law schools. Conversely, law schools that had the lowest private-sector starting salary were positioned at the lowest ranks in the rankings. 

Seek Out Financial Assistance and Scholarships

Many law school students don’t cover all the costs on their own. According to Law School Transparency, about 78% of law school students are given a tuition discount. 

Law schools often offer merit-based aid to attract students who have achieved high academic success. There are certain law schools that provide full-ride scholarships, while there are also some schools that have policies prohibiting them. On the other hand, need-based aid is also provided by some law schools. Sometimes, this aid may involve loans, so it’s not always “free money.”  

Otherwise, some schools give school-specific scholarships to applicants who match the criteria (such as legal field dedication). These significant scholarships can cover tuition, housing, and other expenditures. You can also apply for a scholarship awarded by a third party. 

Apply for a Loan

Applying for private or federal loans is an option. Although private loans have hefty interest rates, there are times when both are required. 

If you obtain federal loans, you may be eligible for an income-driven repayment plan. These plans incorporate a monthly payment limit determined by a fraction of your disposable income, which can substantially decrease payments to a more feasible level. The remaining loan balance is absolved within a span of either 20 or 25 years.

An alternative choice is the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which absolves the outstanding balance on federal loans after a decade of payments while the borrower is engaged in full-time employment with a qualified nonprofit or government entity. Therefore, if you are willing to labor for the betterment of society, it is an effective means to eliminate debt.

Refinancing could secure a lower monthly payment or interest rate for private loans. Just make sure to shop around and compare terms carefully first.

Employer Support

Some good news is that employers can contribute up to $5,250 tax-free annually toward their employees’ student loans and tuition debts through 2025. So it’s worth researching whether prospective employers offer student loan repayment assistance programs. The contributions reduce your taxable income too.

The key is reviewing all repayment and forgiveness options, as there are ways to ease debt burdens based on your career path and federal loan status. Being strategic with decisions early on can save thousands in the long term.

Get a Head Start in Law School with Professional LSAT Support

As you consider how much lawyers make out of law school, it’s crucial to lay a strong foundation right from the beginning. Odyssey Test Prep provides extensive assistance throughout your law school application process. 

The LSAT is an essential factor in law school admissions decisions. This test is designed to consistently assess a candidate’s competence and potential for success as a lawyer. An improved LSAT score can enhance the probability of acceptance into esteemed law schools. Moreover, it can make you eligible for merit scholarships, helping cover law school fees. Moreover, it can increase your likelihood of obtaining employment after completing your studies.

LSAT Prep Course

Our LSAT Prep Course can help you unlock your potential and secure a high LSAT score to pave the way for a lucrative legal career. Odyssey’s LSAT Prep Courses allow students to follow a structured curriculum and practice materials to build skills through lessons, drills, and mock exams with detailed reviews. Customized feedback helps students finesse weaknesses leading up to the actual exam. 

LSAT Tutoring

Elevate your LSAT performance with personalized guidance from expert tutors, ensuring you enter law school with the skills needed for a successful and rewarding career. Our LSAT Tutoring provides personalized coaching to meet each student’s needs. One-on-one sessions with an expert tutor target problematic areas for score improvement.

Law School Admission Consulting

Maximize your chances of acceptance into top law schools and position yourself for higher earning potential with our tailored law school admissions consulting services. Our Law School Admission Consulting services guide applicants through building a cohesive, compelling application. This includes advising on component development like essays, resume design aligned with goals, school research, and fit assessment. Consultants help applicants convey their best candidate profile.

Final Thoughts: How Much Do Lawyers Make Out of Law School?

The journey to becoming a lawyer, often marred by the question “Is law school hard?“, also brings financial considerations to the forefront, especially concerning the lawyer’s salary out of law school. 

It’s essential to weigh various elements that affect your future wages and the cost of your education when deciding whether or not law school is worth it. These include your choice of law school, which significantly impacts how your career develops, your legal specialization, and whether you want to work for the government or the private sector, as each has a different financial impact. 

Your salary may also be impacted by where you open your practice, with metropolitan regions often paying more. Because of this, even though law school presents academic and personal hurdles, pursuing this path comes down to evaluating these factors to see if the long-term financial benefits match your financial objectives and career aspirations.