Lawyer Salary Influencers
Experience and the size of the firm play major roles in shaping the pay of lawyers. Other influencers include whether the lawyer works in the public or private sector and the types of cases or clients the lawyer may take.
The legal profession features a diverse field of practice areas and types of employers. Areas of practice range from general to specific specialties, such as international law, bankruptcy and environmental. Lawyers can find jobs in firms of various sizes, government agencies, prosecutors’ offices and nonprofit legal service entities. Also, solo practice is an option. The type of employer can determine the amount of salaries, benefits and bonuses.
2. Geographical Area
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Lawyer Salary in the US
The Bureau of Labor Statistics says lawyers in the United States earn on average $136,260 per year. One in four lawyers made more than $174,280 and one in 10 earned over $187,200 per year.
Lawyer Salary in Canada
According to the Canadian government’s Job Bank, lawyers in Canada made between C$37,196 and C$298,942 per year. PayScale reports the average for lawyers in general is C$74,402 per year. Pay can differ based on area of practice. For instance, according to PayScale, divorce lawyers earn on average C$69,609 per year. The average annual pay is C$98,904 for trial lawyers, C$94,529 for corporate lawyers and C$104,939 for mid-career corporate lawyers.
Lawyer Salary in the UK
According to the National Careers Service, starting salaries for barristers run between £12,000 and £42,000 per year. For experienced barristers, the range is £73,000 to £210,000. However, those who are highly experienced earn on average £210,000 per year. Solicitors make £22,000 to £24,500 as starters, £25,000 to £70,000 when experienced, and at least £100,000 when highly experienced. For lawyers in the Government Legal Service, pay is typically between £47,000 and £55,000 per year.
Lawyer Salary in Australia
According to PayScale, barristers in Australia earn on average AU$96,542 per year. Total pay ranges from AU$37,970 and AU$249,626. For solicitors, the average pay is AU$63,756 annually and the range is AU$44,673 and AU$100,343. Prosecutors make on average AU$80,000 per year.
Lawyer Salary in Switzerland
Salaries for lawyers in Switzerland range between CHF 103,200 and CHF120,000 per year. The average pay is CHF111,600 per year, or CHF9,300 per month.
Lawyer Salary in Norway
In Norway, the average pay stood at approximately NOK1,300,000. Approximately 52 percent earned on average between NOK500,000 and NOK1,000,000 per year, while one in ten lawyers made less than NOK500,000 per year.
Prior to graduation from law school, students typically obtain experience as interns or summer clerks. Work may include legal research and drafting pleadings and other legal documents under a lawyer’s supervision. Depending on the jurisdiction and law school, students can also take on certain cases in school-run legal clinics under a lawyer’s or law school professor’s supervision.
For new lawyers employed in firms, nonprofit legal service providers and government agencies, assignments may consist of research, drafting documents and working under a more senior lawyer. As experience accumulates, the lawyer obtains more autonomy over selecting clients or handling cases. With experience also comes advancement to higher-paid positions or partnerships.
In the United Kingdom, graduates of law school must have three years experience to become a solicitor. Non-graduates can qualify with four or six years, depending on whether the candidate has some graduate degree. Additionally, a period of training, called “pupilage” is required to become a barrister in the United Kingdom.
Lawyers normally work full-time, often in excess of 40 hours per week. As an illustration, the Australian government reports that barristers logged on average 47.2 hours per week. Solicitors in Australia averaged 45.1 hours per week.
Actual hours worked per week can vary. Lawyers face especially longer work days when trying to meet deadlines, prepare for trial and conduct a trial. Those who appear before and work for local governments or boards might have evening meetings.
Bonuses & Benefit Packages
Lawyers, especially in medium or large-size firms, may find bonuses based on performance and experience. For instance, PayScale reports bonuses for Canadian lawyers ranged from C$300.00 to C$20,482. According to PayScale, solicitors in Australia fetched bonuses ranging from AU$465.15 to AU$19,727.
In the United States and Canada, benefits such as pension and vacation pay are left in the employer’s discretion. Lawyers employed by firms in Norway, Australia and Switzerland are entitled to vacation or holiday pay. Norwegian law affords occupational pension and insurance to employed attorneys. In Switzerland, employees participate in a pension that involves three pillars. The first functions as “social security” and the second requires employers to contribute. Self-employed lawyers have the option, but not the mandate, to participate in the second level. In the third pillar, employers voluntarily contribute.
Demand for lawyers should remain strong as clients need assistance for various matters. For example, the Insurance Information Institute reports 9,557 fatalities in the United States were attributable to speeding in 2015, illustrating the demand for personal injury lawyers. Individuals also seek lawyers to handle criminal, family and other civil disputes. Businesses need legal counsel to navigate increasingly complex regulations and statutes and negotiate transactions.
Depending on the country, better prospects might lie in being self-employed, either in a partnership or sole practice. In fact, 80 percent of barristers in the United Kingdom have their own practices. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of lawyers in the United States should rise by 43,800, or six percent, between 2014 and 2024.
To conclude, compensation for lawyers will depend on the size of the firm and experience. In especially larger firms, larger compensation and bonuses rise with performance and longevity. For self-employed lawyers, pay will come from the fees they charge for services. Job prospects will depend upon economic conditions, the ability of firms to hire new lawyers and budgets of public sector employers.