Joe Jamail, Richard Scruggs, Wichai Thongtang, William Lerach, and Bill Neukom are among the highest-paid attorneys in the world. A career in law may be quite rewarding, especially if you have the requisite skill sets to support it.
A trained, skilled, and licensed individual with the ability to represent clients in court and offer legal counsel is known as a lawyer. After completing seven years of full-time study at a postsecondary institution, candidates for the legal profession must pass an exam to earn a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree from an American Bar Association-approved law school (A.B.A.).
How Do Lawyers Earn a Living?
The amount of money that attorneys make varies by profession. The four main types of payment options, however, are retainers, flat fees, contingency costs, and consultation fees.
The following are 4 ways attorneys can earn money:
Retainer fees are payments made to attorneys that are established in advance of the start of the case by the client and the attorney. Clients who find themselves in circumstances where having a lawyer on hand is essential frequently spend a substantial number of money to ensure that the lawyer will be available to handle their case whenever necessary.
2. Fixed costs
An upfront amount for the entire case or service is known as a flat charge. This is only used for jobs that don’t need a lot of time, such case preparation. This is mostly concerned with issues like creating a will or requesting a mutually agreeable divorce. Due to the fact that they typically come with a predefined template that may need a few minor alterations to satisfy clients’ needs, they are perhaps the least expensive methods to hire attorneys.
3. contingent payments
As the name suggests, they are fees that depend on how the case turns out. After the initial consultation, if a lawyer takes the case, they could also agree that, in the event of a victory, they will earn a certain percentage of the proceeds as reimbursement for their fees. Because personal injury and worker’s compensation claims have the highest chances of success and the most potential lawsuits, this type of payout is more common in certain circumstances.
4. Fees for consultation
The first payments made at a client’s initial consultation with a lawyer are consultation fees. The client presents their case at this point, and the attorney talks it over with them before determining whether or not this case comes within their area of expertise. Since this is your first visit with a lawyer, it is one of the easiest and perhaps fastest methods to get paid and make money.
What Do Lawyers Earn?
Lawyers make an average of $150,000 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The fact that law pays well is only one of the numerous advantages of selecting this line of work.
Using occupational data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the following statistic provides an overview of the average lawyer salary by state in the United States:
- Average lawyer pay in New York: $167,110
- California’s typical attorney pay is $171,550.
- Colorado’s typical attorney pay is $147,560.
- Massachusetts’ typical attorney pay is $165,610.
- Illinois’ typical lawyer pay is $152,980.
- average legal fees in Connecticut: $153,640
- Texas’s typical attorney pay is $150,250.
- Arizona’s typical lawyer pay is $145,750.
- Virginia’s typical lawyer pay is $139,180.
- Average lawyer pay in New Jersey: $139,020
Who earns the highest salaries as attorneys?
Strangely, some attorneys seem to be extremely wealthy while others have trouble making ends meet. If you are unfamiliar with the industry, it could be challenging to understand the differences in the sums of money that one lawyer makes over another. The fact is that, similar to doctors, attorneys can choose to specialize in particular areas of law practice, and the pay ranges vary greatly.
Some of the legal professions with the highest salaries include:
1. Medical Attorney
$150,881 on average
The list of the Highest Paid Lawyers should definitely start with medical attorneys. This kind of attorney provides their clients with a wide variety of legal counsel and services related to medical law. This includes personal injury, medical malpractice, and a number of other pertinent subjects. It also includes health care law. Medical attorneys typically defend hospitals and clinics that provide medical services.
2. Patent attorney
Earnings on average: $140,972
Intellectual property attorneys are another name for patent lawyers. These lawyers often earn between the second and third highest salaries. Three different categories of intellectual property law must be understood and are demanded of intellectual property attorneys. Intellectual property includes things like patents, trademarks, and copyrights.
3. Trial Lawyer
Salary on average: $101,086
The trial lawyer needs to be quite knowledgeable about the law. Throughout their careers, they are also accountable for keeping up with new legal developments and trends. Trial lawyers need to have keen intuition and be able to spot minute nuances that might have a big influence on their cases. They frequently need to communicate while formulating a plan or strategy and must be able to think quickly, organize their thoughts, and take in new information.
4. Tax Attorney
Salary on average: $99,690
Tax attorneys typically make between $80,000 and $105,000 per year, or $99,640 on average. When interacting with governmental taxation entities like the federal, state, and local governments, this kind of attorney represents a firm. In addition to creating tax-saving plans, tax attorneys are responsible to their clients for the writing of legal papers containing duties.
5. Corporate Attorney
Earnings on average: $98,822
Corporate Layers make $98,000 on average a year, but some of the more successful ones may make well into the triple digits, while others may only make $66,000. A corporate attorney provides clients with legal guidance on a variety of business transactions, including business sales, acquisitions, and mergers. To make sure the legalese is in the best interests of their customers, who are primarily companies and enterprises, they draft contracts and carefully review proposals.
6. Labor & Employment Lawyer
Salary on average: $97,846
The relationships that exist between unions, employers, and employees are the focus of employment and labor attorneys. They deal with wage and hour requirements, benefits, and pension security in addition to workplace discrimination and harassment. While the tasks of labor attorneys and employment lawyers sometimes overlap, employment lawyers deal with problems in non-union workplaces while labor lawyers specialize in union-management contacts and collective bargaining.
7. bankruptcy attorneys
Salary on average: $97,132
Lawyers that specialize in the United States Bankruptcy Code’s insolvency provisions represent both people and organizations. Attorneys for bankruptcy often focus on either consumer bankruptcy or business bankruptcy. In consumer bankruptcy, these attorneys represent borrowers or creditors; in commercial bankruptcy, they represent debtors and creditors of corporations.
8. Legal Entertainment
Earnings on average: $96,976
Entertainment attorneys represent a variety of media-related clients and brands, including athletes, singers, artists, and actors. They help their customers safeguard their intellectual property, which can include everything from a comedian’s jokes to a singer’s lyrics. Additionally, entertainment attorneys may settle contracts and fee agreements, get talent releases, serve as a point of contact between agencies and venues, or keep track of union and guild membership.
9. Lawyer for Criminal Defense
Earnings on average: $96,965
Criminal defense lawyers fight for those who have been charged with a crime, making sure that the judicial system appropriately upholds their liberties and fundamental rights. A criminal defense lawyer might work as a private lawyer or as a public defender. Their responsibility, in any position, is to use the law to the accused’s benefit. They must defend the interests of their client within the bounds of the law. If the matter proceeds to trial, criminal defense attorneys may be required to appear in court more frequently than other types of attorneys.
10. constitutional attorney
Salary on average: $76,348
Constitutional attorneys must strike a balance between the interests of people and those of governmental institutions when they interpret and apply the laws of the United States. A constitutional lawyer’s duties may also include serving as a university constitutional law specialist, representing people in discrimination cases, and challenging the legality of laws.
Law degree types and pay scales
There are several sorts of law degrees, each with a distinct specialty and potential career paths.
The most typical varieties of legal degrees are:
1. Law degree (J.D.)
In most nations, including the United States, a J.D. is needed in order to practice law. After finishing a three-year legal program, one normally earns a professional degree in that field.
2. Law Bachelor (LL.B.)
Many nations, notably the UK and Canada, offer the LL.B., an undergraduate legal degree. It serves as the primary legal education requirement for practicing law in several countries.
3. (LL.M.) Master of Laws
An advanced law degree that enables specialization in a certain legal field is the LL.M. It is frequently undertaken by those who already have a J.D. or LL.B. and want to further their expertise in a particular area of law.
4. Juridical Science Doctor (S.J.D. or J.S.D.)
The S.J.D. or J.S.D. is the top legal degree that is offered, and people who want to work in academia or research frequently obtain it. It necessitates conducting in-depth study and finishing a PhD dissertation.
The 20 highest paid attorneys worldwide
Some of the world’s highest-paid attorneys are listed below:
1. Jamail Joe
$1. 7 billion in net value
Joe Jamail, who passed away in December 2015 at the age of 90, made our list despite the fact that he was the richest lawyer in the country at the time of his passing.
After representing Pennzoil in a 1985 case against competitor Texaco, he became referred to as the “King of Torts” and gained notoriety. His contingency fee once the courts found in Pennzoil’s favor was $335.
The former marine who graduated from the University of Texas School of Law in 1953 has a track record of being combative, rude, and obscene in court.
2. Richard Scruggs
$1. 7 billion in net value
Richard Scruggs, a well-known trial lawyer and 1976 graduate of the University of Mississippi School of Law, is most known for his love of tobacco and asbestos cases and for having obtained more than $1 billion in verdicts against several corporations.
Additionally, he had a significant role in the 2003 case against Lehman Brothers, which resulted in a $51 million judgement, and the Ritalin class action cases of the 2000s.
But in 2007, he was accused of corrupting the legal system. He entered a guilty plea in 2008 and received a six-year federal prison term. He has done his sentence, is now 70 years old, and still has enormous wealth.
3. Thongtang Wichai
Worth $1 billion as of now
Many in the legal community in Thailand consider Wichai Thongtang to be “one of the top names in the profession from around the world.”
He began practicing business law after getting his law degree from Thammasat University in 1970, representing a number of well-known Thai CEOs and businesses while also learning about the stock market and investing. In addition to his work as a lawyer, Thongtang is the Chairman of Cable Thai Holding P.L.C. and holds 15% of Dusit Medical, a Bangkok-based healthcare company.
4. William Lerach
900 million in net value
William Lerach had a successful career as a corporate lawyer specialized in private securities class action lawsuits for more than 30 years, which is how he made his large fortune, even though he was disqualified from the practice of law in 2009 for his role in a bribe scam.
Lerach, a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, earned the moniker “King of Pain” and was frequently described as the most dreaded attorney in America during his prime. With the $7.12 billion judgment he got against Enron, he currently holds the record for the biggest amount ever collected in a collection of securities class action cases.
5. Bill Neukom
$850 million in net value
Corporate lawyer Bill Neukom is well-known for his charitable endeavors. He founded and presently serves as CEO of the World Justice Project, an organization devoted to advancing the rule of law around the world.
After graduating from Stanford Law School in 1967, he worked for a tiny company until he was asked to undertake work for Microsoft, which was still in its early stages. He finally worked his way up to the position of legal counsel for Microsoft, which he maintained for 25 years.
6. Judy Sheindlin
$250 million in net value
Judge Judy makes $47 million a year and is most known for her job as a stern TV judge. Before opting to specialize on family court prosecution, Judge Sheindlin, a 1965 graduate of the New York Law School, started her legal career as a corporate lawyer.
In 1982, she was assigned to the position of criminal court judge, where she amassed a reputation for being “tough” and ruled over 20,000 cases. She produced a number of novels that caught the attention of television producers and resulted in the development of her own television program.
7. Roy Black
$100 million in net value
Both a civil and criminal defense lawyer, Roy Black is a University of Miami alum and senior partner of Black, Srebnick, Kornspan & Stumpf. For over 40 years, he has represented well-known clients including Helio Castroneves, Albertson’s, Inc., and William Kennedy Smith (who was exonerated of rape accusations).
He also acts as a legal expert on “The Today Show” and “Good Morning America” and teaches advanced criminal evidence at the University of Miami. Most in the industry consider him to have “the best national reputation in Florida.”
8. Willie E. Gary
$100 million in net value
Willie Gary, sometimes known as “The Giant Killer,” has taken on some of the biggest companies in the nation, including Disney and Anheuser-Busch. He has been the recipient of many of the largest jury verdicts and settlements in American history, as well as several cases totaling more than $30 billion.
He holds the position of managing partner of Gary, Williams, Parenti, Watson and Gary, P.L.L.C. and is also a motivational speaker and legal expert on “The Early Show.” He earned his degree from Shaw University.
9. Jane Wanjiru Michuki
$60 million in net value
Equity Group Holdings Limited is one of the top companies in Kenya, and Jane Wanjiru Michuki is the managing partner of Kimani & Michuki Advocate, a corporate law practice in Nairobi, Kenya.
She went to Warwick University as well as the Kenya School of Law. She has a law background, but her personal wealth is mostly derived from becoming the greatest female shareholder on the Nairobi Stock Exchange.
10. Branca John
$50 million in net value
John Branca, a graduate of the UCLA School of Law, has a lengthy career as a business and entertainment attorney who focuses on representing independent investors and rock and roll musicians.
He is on practically every list of the finest entertainment lawyers in the world and has represented more than 30 members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He also serves as the estate of Michael Jackson’s co-executor.
11. Robert Shapiro
$50 million in net value
Robert Shapiro graduated from Loyola Law School in 1968 and started his legal career as a criminal defense attorney. He is currently a senior partner with Glaser, Weil, Fink, Jacobs, Howard, Avchen and Shapiro, LLP.
After serving on O.J. Simpson’s legal team and defending a number of other celebrities, he decided to pursue civil action. In addition to his law practice, he co-founded LegalZoom and Shoedazzle.com and has written a children’s book.
12. Judge Joe Brown
$30 million in assets
Judge Joe Brown graduated from UCLA with a law degree and is most known for the 15-year run of his daily court program. He was the first African-American prosecutor in Memphis, Tennessee, before starting his own company and rising to the position of criminal court judge in Shelby County, Tennessee.
When he presided over James Earl Ray’s appeal for the murder of Martin Luther King Jr., he caught the attention of TV producers. Most of his wealth came from the program. In Shelby County, he ran for district attorney general in 2014, but the incumbent won.
13. Thomas Mesereau
Criminal defense lawyer Thomas Mesereau holds degrees from Harvard University and the Hastings College of the Law at the University of California. The National Trial Lawyers named him “Trial Lawyer of the Year for 2015”. He has received a number of additional awards, including “Criminal Defense Lawyer of the Year.”
He is renowned for taking on cases with great stakes and overwhelming odds and succeeding brilliantly. He defended Michael Jackson when he was exonerated of 14 allegations of child abuse, and he has won three consecutive federal criminal jury cases, which is unusual. He also provides pro bono services to the Mesereau Free Legal Clinic, despite the fact that his hourly rate is so outrageous that it isn’t publicized.
14. Geragos Mark
Salary: $25 million
Criminal defense lawyer Mark Geragos, a 1992 graduate of Loyola Law School, has also been involved in a number of significant class action lawsuits in civil litigation. He has defended everyone from Scott Peterson and Susan McDougal to Chris Brown, Michael Jackson, and Winona Ryder.
He has been recognized as “One of the 100 Most Influential Attorneys in California,” and a 2008 case in which he succeeded in having a jury pay more than $38 to a pharmaceutical company ranks as one of the top ten verdicts in California history. He currently serves as Geragos and Geragos’ managing partner.
15. Dershowitz Alan
Salary: $25 million
When Alan Dershowitz graduated from Harvard Law School in 1962, he immediately started working as a lawyer. He began teaching at Harvard Law School in 1964, and in 1967 he was given the title of full professor. (In 2013 he departed the business.)
While teaching, he was developing a reputation in the field of criminal law. He represents a number of well-known people due to his reputation as the “top lawyer of last resort,” including Mike Tyson, Jim Baker, Leona Helmsley, O.J. Simpson, and Jeffrey Epstein. Additionally, he has released more than a dozen books. Everything came together to aid in his financial development.
16. Boies David
$20 million in net value
The current chairman of Boies, Schiller & Flexner, David Boies, was once the Senate’s chief counsel. After graduating from Yale University in 1966, he started to make a name for himself.
He made a fortune representing a number of important companies during the 2011 NBA lockout, including IBM, Napster, George Steinbrenner (owner of the New York Yankees), CBS, and the NBA Players Association. According to Fortune magazine, he is the “number one hired gun” in corporate America.
17. Toler Lynn
$15 million in net value
For more than eight years, Cleveland Heights, Ohio’s single municipal court judge, now better known as the judge from TV’s Divorce Court, was Lynn Toler. After earning her law degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1984, she worked as a civil lawyer before being appointed a judge of a municipal court.
In her line of work, she was renowned for demanding unconventional language like those used in essays. Along with overseeing divorce court, Lynn is the author of three novels.
18. Jordan Vernon E. Jr.
Assets: $12 million
Jordan, a 1935-born lawyer, started his lengthy legal career after receiving his degree from Howard University. (He also holds more than 70 honorary degrees from other universities and schools.) At the moment, he serves as senior counsel with Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld LLP, where he concentrates on general legal advice, business law, and international law.
His early career focused mostly on civil rights, and he eventually served as President Clinton’s counselor. The majority of his earnings came from his employment as a Wall Street banker and his representation of major corporations like Xerox and American Express.
19. Jose Baez
Assets: $8 million
Jose Baez is an American success story who gained notoriety in 2011 for defending Casey Anthony. He dropped out of high school, joined the Navy, earned his GED, and then graduated from St. Thomas University School of Law with a law degree.
He was involved in several well-known cases that ended in acquittals, most notably the murder of Nilton Diaz, which has been labeled “the biggest legal upset since O.J.” . He is now representing former NFL star Aaron Hernandez and is recognized as the most sought-after criminal defense lawyer in the country. The best-selling book Presumed Guilty: Casey Anthony: The Inside Story was written by him as well.
20. Harish Salve
$6 million in assets
With a focus on business, constitutional, and tax law, Harish Salve has worked hard to establish himself as one of India’s best (and most expensive) attorneys. Customers currently pay Salve, who comes from a family of attorneys and was formerly the Solicitor General of India, almost $45,000 each day.
He has defended several government entities, important corporate clients, like as businessman Mukesh Ambani, as well as Bollywood celebrities in criminal proceedings. He is really credited with saving Salman Khan from jail in a hit-and-run case, earning him the nickname “guardian angel” in the process. (Indian prisons are renowned for having harsh conditions.)
Who has the highest net worth among lawyers?
With a net worth of $1.7 billion, Richard Scruggs is the wealthiest attorney in the world.
Most wealthy attorneys in New York
As of November 1, 2021, the average yearly wage for a lawyer in New York City is $85,873. This works out to $7,156 per month or $1,651 each week.
However, the average lawyer’s salary in New York ranges from $16,453 to $155,207. Lawyers in New York City presently make an average salary between $65,811 (25th percentile) and $105,847 (75th percentile), with the 90th percentile earning $142,044 annually.
Salary of a district attorney
With a typical income of $64,623, district attorney salaries in the US range from $13,279 to $356,999. District attorneys get an average salary of $64,627 to $162,013 year, with the top 86 percent making $356,999.
Salary of a Real Estate Lawyer
Real estate attorneys are responsible for representing clients in disputes including issues with tenants, zoning, and property development in commercial or residential real estate.
They also defend their clients in court, for example, when a landlord brings a claim against a tenant for unpaid rent.
An estate lawyer’s salary ranges from around $90,125 on average, based on experience and location.
Immigration Attorney Fees
The average income for an immigration attorney in the United States as of October 29, 2021 is $80,035, while the compensation range often falls between $68,232 and $92,575.
Salary varies according to a number of variables, including schooling, credentials, supplementary skills, and the length of time you have worked in the field.
Patent Attorney Fees
Determining whether something is patentable, as well as matters involving designs and trademarks, is the responsibility of a patent lawyer. A patent attorney makes an average compensation of $129,500, according to PayScale.
Salary of a tax lawyer
Attorneys that specialize in tax law typically represent businesses, organizations, or individuals when dealing with local, state, and federal taxation authorities. Their yearly salary is $99690.
Tax law professionals often start off earning between $55,000 and $83,000 per year, and as their careers progress, they may anticipate to see a steady growth in their yearly income.
Criminal Attorney Fees
A criminal attorney’s job is to represent society, persons, and corporations in court against criminal accusations.
They look into situations, interview people, create arguments, counter ideas, and occasionally try to resolve matters outside of court.
Criminal attorneys make $51,000 on average, with some making up to $115,000 per year.
Final Thoughts on Highest Paid Attorneys
It’s true that being a lawyer requires a lot of study. Depending on the kind of law you practice, you might need to obtain an LL.M. One thing is certain, though: a career in law is incredibly profitable.
We trust that this page gave you a thorough overview of some of the best paid attorneys as well as some basic information about the legal industry.
FAQs on the Highest Paid Attorneys
Which type of attorney earns the most money?
One of the highest pay in the legal profession goes to medical attorneys. The duties of a medical attorney will vary based on the organization they work for.
Lawyers in this field frequently represent hospitals and healthcare organizations. Others take care of cases involving personal injury or medical misconduct.
What Do Public Defenders Get Paid?
A registered public defender earns, on average, $68,511 a year in the US. The pay for a public defender varies according to their education, area of practice, amount of hours worked, and level of expertise.