The highest paid lawyers in the world include Joe Jamail, Richard Scruggs, Wichai Thongtang, William Lerach and Bill Neukom. The legal field can be a very rewarding career, especially if you can back it up with the necessary skillsets.
A lawyer is a skilled, professional, and qualified individual who is authorized to practice law, conduct lawsuits, and provide legal advice. To become a lawyer, you must first complete seven years of full-time study at a postsecondary institution, followed by an examination to acquire a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree from an American Bar Association-approved law school (A.B.A.).
How Do Lawyers Make Money?
Lawyers make money varies depending on their practice. However, it usually boils down to these fourtypes of payment methods; retainers, flat fees, contingency fees, and consultation fees.
4 ways lawyers make money are as follows:
Retainer fees are when lawyers are paid a specific fee that is agreed upon between the lawyer and the client prior to beginning work on the case. Clients who are in situations where having a lawyer on hand is vital may often pay a considerable sum of money to assure that the lawyer will be able to handle their case every time the client need one.
2. Flat fees
A flat fee is a fixed cost for the whole case or service. This is reserved for tasks that do not need many hours, such as case preparation. This is mainly focused on topics like writing a will or filing for a consensual divorce (when both parties agree to divorce). These are likely the cheapest ways to use attorneys because they frequently come with a fixed template that may require some small adjustments to cater to customers’ demands.
3. Contingency fees
As the name implies, are fees that are contingent or reliant on the outcome of the case. When a lawyer accepts to take the case (after the initial meeting), they may agree that if they win, the lawyer would receive a set proportion of the money for their costs. This form of payment is more typical in litigation situations, such as worker’s compensation and personal injury, because these are the cases with the best possibility of victory and the most possible lawsuits.
4. Consultation fees
Consultation fees are the first payments made at a client’s first meeting with a lawyer. This is when the client presents their case, and the lawyer discusses it with them before assessing whether or not this case falls within their area of competence. This is one of the simplest and potentially quickest ways to receive and generate money because it is the very first appointment you may book with a lawyer.
How Much Do Lawyers Make?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, lawyers make an average of $150,000 annually. One of the many benefits of choosing a profession as a lawyer is that it pays well.
An overview of the average lawyer income by states in the United States using occupational data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the following statistic:
- New York average lawyer salary: $167,110
- California average lawyer salary: $171,550
- Colorado average lawyer salary: $147,560
- Massachusetts average lawyer salary: $165,610
- Illinois average lawyer salary: $152,980
- Connecticut average lawyer salary: $153,640
- Texas average lawyer salary: $150,250
- Arizona average lawyer salary: $145,750
- Virginia average lawyer salary: $139,180
- New Jersey average lawyer salary: $139,020
Who are the Highest Paid Lawyers By Salary?
Oddly, some lawyers appear to be incredibly rich while others struggle to make ends meet. It may be difficult to grasp the variance in the quantities of money that one lawyer earns over another unless you are familiar with the field. The truth is that lawyers, like surgeons, can choose to specialize in certain areas of law practice, and the compensation scales are vastly different.
These are some of the highest paid types of lawyers:
1. Medical Lawyer
Average Salary: $150,881
Medical lawyers should probably top the list of the Highest Paid Lawyers. This type of lawyer offers their customers a wide range of legal advice and services pertaining to medical law. This encompasses health care law, personal injury, medical malpractice, and a range of other relevant fields. Generally, medical lawyers represent health care clinics and hospitals.
2. Patent lawyer
Average Salary: $140,972
Patent lawyers are also referred to as Intellectual Property attorneys. In most circumstances, these are the second-highest paid types of lawyers. Intellectual property lawyers are expected to be well-versed and knowledgeable of three distinct kinds of intellectual property law. Patents, trademarks, and copyrights are all examples of intellectual property.
3. Trial Attorney
Average Salary: $101,086
The trial attorney must have a thorough understanding of the law. They are also responsible for staying abreast of current trends and changes in the law as they arise throughout their careers. Trial attorneys must have sharp intuition and the ability to detect minor details that could substantially impact their cases. In many circumstances, they must be able to think on their feet, organize their thoughts, and absorb new information while forming a plan or strategy and speaking.
4. Tax Lawyer
Average Salary: $99,690
Tax attorneys earn between $80,000 and $105,000 per year, with an annual salary of $99,640 being the average. This type of attorney represents a company while dealing with government taxing authorities such as the federal, state, and municipal governments. Tax attorneys are accountable to their clients for the drafting of legal documents involving obligations as well as the development of tax-saving strategies.
5. Corporate Lawyer
Average Salary: $98,822
Corporate Layers earn an average of $98,000 a year, but some of the more successful ones might earn well into the triple digits, while others can earn as little as $66,000. A corporate lawyer advises clients on legal issues relating to a wide range of commercial transactions, such as business sales, acquisitions, and mergers. They prepare contracts and read through offers to ensure that the legalese is in the best interests of their clients, who are mainly corporations and businesses.
6. Employment and Labor Lawyer
Average Salary: $97,846
Employment and labor lawyers deal with the connections that exist between unions, employers, and employees. They deal with employment discrimination and harassment, wage and hour standards, benefits, and pension security. While the duties of labor lawyers and employment lawyers often overlap, labor lawyers specialize in union-management interactions and collective bargaining, whereas employment lawyers deal with issues in non-union workplaces.
7. Bankruptcy Lawyers
Average Salary: $97,132
Bankruptcy lawyers are professionals in the United States Bankruptcy Code who deal with insolvency difficulties for individuals or organizations. Bankruptcy attorneys typically specialize in either consumer or commercial bankruptcy. These lawyers represent people or creditors in consumer bankruptcy; in commercial bankruptcy, they represent corporate creditors and debtors.
8. Entertainment Lawyer
Average Salary: $96,976
Athletes, artists, musicians, actors, and other media-related clients or brands are all represented by entertainment lawyers. They assist their clients in protecting their intellectual property, which might range from a singer’s lyrics to a comedian’s comedy routine. Furthermore, entertainment lawyers may negotiate contracts and price arrangements, secure talent releases, function as a liaison between agents or venues, or monitor union and guild membership.
9. Criminal Defense Lawyer
Average Salary: $96,965
Criminal defense attorneys advocate for persons accused of criminal activity, ensuring that their freedoms and fundamental rights are respected properly within the legal system. A criminal defense attorney may practice as a public defender or as a private counsel. In either capacity, their job is to use the law to the accused’s advantage. Within the confines of the law, they must safeguard their client’s best interests. Criminal defense lawyers may have to appear in court more frequently than other types of lawyers, particularly if the case goes to trial.
10. Constitutional Lawyer
Average Salary: $76,348
Constitutional lawyers are concerned with the interpretation and application of the United States Constitution, and they must balance the interests of government institutions with the interests of individuals. A constitutional lawyer’s various tasks may include contesting the constitutionality of a piece of legislation, defending individuals in discrimination actions, or working as a constitutional law expert at a university.
Type of Law Degree and Salaries
There are several types of law degrees, each with its own focus and career prospects.
The most common types of law degrees are:
1. Juris Doctor (J.D.)
The J.D. is the basic law degree required to practice law in most countries, including the United States. It is a professional degree typically obtained after completing a three-year law program.
2. Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.)
The LL.B. is an undergraduate law degree offered in many countries, including the United Kingdom and Canada. In some jurisdictions, it is the primary law degree required for legal practice.
3. Master of Laws (LL.M.)
The LL.M. is an advanced law degree that allows individuals to specialize in a particular area of law. It is often pursued by those who already hold a J.D. or LL.B. degree and wish to deepen their knowledge in a specific legal field.
4. Doctor of Juridical Science (S.J.D. or J.S.D.)
The S.J.D. or J.S.D. is the highest law degree available and is typically pursued by individuals interested in academic or research careers. It requires extensive research and the completion of a doctoral dissertation.
The Top 20 Highest Paid Lawyers in the World
Below are some of the highest paid lawyers in the world:
1. Joe Jamail
Net worth: $1.7 billion
Even though he died in December 2015 at the age of 90, Joe Jamail made our list since he was the wealthiest practicing lawyer in the United States at the time of his death.
He was known as the “King of Torts” after representing Pennzoil in a 1985 lawsuit against rival Texaco. After the courts ruled in Pennzoil’s favor, his contingency fee was $335.
The 1953 University of Texas School of Law graduate was a former marine with a long history of being aggressive, impolite, and vulgar in court.
2. Richard Scruggs
Net worth: $1.7 billion
Richard Scruggs, a 1976 graduate of the University of Mississippi School of Law and a notable trial lawyer, is most known for his passion for tobacco and asbestos cases and winning more than $1 billion in judgments against numerous firms.
He was also heavily involved in the Ritalin class action lawsuits of the 2000s and the 2003 case against Lehman Brothers, in which he received a $51 million verdict.
However, he was charged with judicial bribery in 2007. He pled guilty in 2008 and was sentenced to six years in federal prison. He is now 70 years old, has served his time, and has retained his vast riches.
3. Wichai Thongtang
Net worth: $1.1 billion
Wichai Thongtang is a powerful lawyer in Thailand, regarded by many in the field as “one of the top names in the profession from around the world.”
After graduating from Thammasat University in 1970, he practiced business law, representing several prominent Thai executives and corporations while also learning about the stock market and investing. Thongtang is the Chairman of Cable Thai Holding P.L.C. and controls 15% of Dusit Medical, a Bangkok healthcare corporation, in addition to his legal career.
4. William Lerach
Net worth: $900 million
Although he was forbidden from practicing law in 2009 for his involvement in a bribe scheme, William Lerach had a prosperous career as a corporate lawyer specializing in private securities class action litigation for more than 30 years, which is how he earned his substantial fortune.
Lerach, a University of Pittsburg School of Law graduate, is known as the “King of Pain” and was often referred to as the most feared lawyer in America during his heyday. He holds the record for the largest sum ever recovered in a group of securities class action lawsuits for the $7.12 billion judgment he received against Enron.
5. Bill Neukom
Net worth: $850 million
Bill Neukom is a corporate attorney who is well-known for his philanthropic activities. He is currently the founder and C.E.O. of the World Justice Project, which is dedicated to strengthening the rule of law worldwide.
He worked at a small business after graduating from Stanford Law School in 1967 until he was approached to perform work for Microsoft, which was still in its early phases. He eventually rose through the ranks to become Microsoft’s legal counsel, a post he held for 25 years.
6. Judy Sheindlin
Net worth: $250 million
Judge Judy is most recognized for her role as a no-nonsense T.V. judge, and she earns $47 million each year. Judge Sheindlin, a 1965 graduate of New York Law School, began her career as a business attorney before deciding to become a family court prosecutor.
She was appointed as a criminal court judge in 1982, where she established a reputation as a “tough” judge and presided over 20,000 cases. She authored numerous novels which piqued the interest of T.V. executives, leading to the creation of her T.V. show.
7. Roy Black
Net worth: $100 million
Roy Black, a University of Miami alumnus and senior partner at Black, Srebnick, Kornspan & Stumpf, is a civil and criminal defense attorney. He has defended high-profile clients such as William Kennedy Smith (acquitted on rape charges), Albertson’s, Inc., and Helio Castroneves for almost 40 years.
Most in the business see him as having “the best national reputation in Florida,” and he also serves as a legal expert on “The Today Show” and “Good Morning America,” as well as teaching advanced criminal evidence at the University of Miami.
8. Gary, Willie E
Net worth: $100 million
Willie Gary, dubbed “The Giant Killer,” has taken on several of the country’s largest firms, including Anheuser-Busch and Disney. He has received some of the greatest settlements and jury awards in the United States, including numerous lawsuits worth more than $30 billion.
He graduated from Shaw University and is now the managing partner of Gary, Williams, Parenti, Watson, and Gary, P.L.L.C., as well as a motivational speaker and legal expert on “The Early Show.”
9. Jane Wanjiru Michuki
Net worth: $60 million
Jane Wanjiru Michuki is a managing partner of Kimani & Michuki Advocate, a corporate law company in Nairobi, Kenya that represents some of Kenya’s top firms, including Equity Group Holdings Limited.
She attended the Kenya School of Law and Warwick University. In addition to her legal career, she is the largest female stockholder on the Nairobi Stock Exchange, which accounts for a significant portion of her personal worth.
10. John Branca
Net worth: $50 million
John Branca, a UCLA School of Law alumnus, has a long career as an entertainment and corporate lawyer, specializing in defending rock and roll performers and independent investors.
He has represented over 30 members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and is on almost every list of the world’s top entertainment attorneys. In addition, he is the co-executor of Michael Jackson’s estate.
11. Robert Shapiro
Net worth: $50 million
Robert Shapiro, a senior partner with Glaser, Weil, Fink, Jacobs, Howard, Avchen, and Shapiro, LLP, graduated from Loyola Law School in 1968 and began his career as a criminal lawyer.
He chose civil litigation after working on O.J. Simpson’s legal team (and representing numerous other celebrities). He has published a children’s book and is a co-founder of LegalZoom and Shoedazzle.com, in addition to his legal practice.
12. Judge Joe Brown
Net worth: $30 million
Judge Joe Brown obtained his law degree from UCLA and is most known for his daily court program, which aired for 15 years. He began his own business after serving as the first African-American prosecutor in Memphis, Tennessee, before becoming a criminal court judge in Shelby County, Tennessee.
He drew the attention of TV producers when presiding over James Earl Ray’s appeal for the killing of Martin Luther King, Jr. The show provided the majority of his riches. He ran for district attorney general in Shelby County in 2014, but was defeated by the incumbent.
13. Thomas Mesereau
Net worth: $250,000
Thomas Mesereau is a criminal defense attorney who graduated from Harvard University and The University of California’s Hastings College of Law. He was selected “Trial Lawyer of the Year for 2015” by the National Trial Lawyers. (He has several more honors, including “Criminal Defense Lawyer of the Year.”)
He is well-known for taking on high-stakes cases against insurmountable odds and producing spectacular results. He represented Michael Jackson when he was cleared of 14 child molestation accusations, and he has won three federal criminal jury trials in a row, which is unique. While his hourly charge is so exorbitant that it isn’t disclosed, he also works pro gratis for the Mesereau Free Legal Clinic.
14. Mark Geragos
Net worth: $25 million
Mark Geragos, a 1992 Loyola Law School alumnus, is a criminal defense attorney who has also been engaged in several landmark civil litigation class action cases. From Chris Brown, Michael Jackson, and Winona Ryder to Scott Peterson and Susan McDougal, he has represented them all.
He has been named “One of the 100 Most Influential Attorneys in California,” and he has a record for one of the top ten judgments in California history for a 2008 case in which he got a jury decision awarded more than $38 against a pharmaceutical firm. He is presently the managing partner of Geragos and Geragos.
15. Alan Dershowitz
Net worth: $25 million
Alan Dershowitz began his legal career immediately after graduating from Harvard Law School in 1962. He joined the Harvard Law School faculty in 1964 and was promoted to full professor in 1967. (He left the company in 2013.)
He was creating a reputation for himself in the criminal law sector while conducting classes. Because of his reputation as the “top lawyer of last resort,” he has a slew of high-profile clients, including Mike Tyson, Jim Baker, Leona Helmsley, O.J. Simpson, and Jeffrey Epstein. He has also published more than a dozen novels. Everything worked together to help him build his money.
16. David Boies
Net worth: $20 million
David Boies, the current chairman of Boies, Schiller & Flexner, previously served as Chief Counsel for the United States Senate. He graduated from Yale University in 1966 and created a name for himself almost immediately.
During the 2011 NBA lockout, he gained a fortune by representing a variety of significant firms, including IBM, Napster, George Steinbrenner (owner of the New York Yankees), CBS, and the NBA Players Association. He is “corporate America’s number one hired gun,” according to Fortune magazine.
17. Lynn Toler
Net worth: $15 million
Lynn Toler, better known as the judge from TV’s Divorce Court since 2007, was formerly the sole municipal court judge in Cleveland Heights, OH for more than 8 years. She practiced civil law after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1984, before becoming a municipal court judge.
She was known in her job for enforcing unorthodox sentences, such as writing essays. Lynn is the author of three novels in addition to ruling over divorce court.
18. Vernon E. Jordan Jr.
Net worth: $12 million
Jordan, who was born in 1935, has had a long legal career that began after graduating from Howard University. (He also has over 70 honorary degrees from other colleges and institutions.) He is presently the senior counsel at Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld LLP, where he focuses on general counsel, commercial, and international law.
His early career was largely concerned with civil rights, and he later worked as an advisor to President Clinton. The majority of his money came from representing large firms such as Xerox and American Express, as well as working as a Wall Street banker.
19. Jose Baez
Net worth: $8 million
Jose Baez, is an American success story, perhaps best known for defending Casey Anthony in 2011. He joined the Navy after dropping out of high school, obtained his GED, and finally received a law degree from St. Thomas University School of Law.
He has been engaged in a number of high-profile cases that resulted in acquittals, notably the murder case of Nilton Diaz, which has been dubbed “the biggest legal upset since O.J.” . He is widely regarded as the most sought-after criminal attorney in the United States, and he presently defends former NFL player Aaron Hernandez. He is also the best-selling author of Presumed Guilty: Casey Anthony: The Inside Story.
20. Harish Salve
Net worth: $6 million
Harish Salve has worked hard to establish himself as one of India’s finest (and most expensive) lawyers, specializing in commercial, constitutional, and tax law. Salve, who hails from a family of lawyers and was once the Solicitor General of India, presently costs customers around $45,000 per day.
He has defended Bollywood celebrities in criminal trials, in addition to defending various government bodies, significant business clients, including entrepreneur Mukesh Ambani. Indeed, he is widely regarded as Salman Khan’s “guardian angel” for keeping him out of jail on a hit-and-run case. (Indian jails are well-known for their severe conditions.)
Who is the Richest Lawyer in the World?
Richard Scruggs is the richest lawyer in the world with a net worth of $1.7 billion.
Highest Paid Lawyers In New York
The average annual salary for a Lawyer in New York City is $85,873 as of November 1, 2021. This equates to $1,651 each week or $7,156 per month.
However, some lawyers in New York can earn as high as $155,207, while others may earn low as $16,453. The bulk of Lawyer salaries in New York City now vary from $65,811 (25th percentile) to $105,847 (75th percentile), with top earners (90th percentile) earning $142,044 each year.
District Attorney Salary
District Attorney salaries in the United States range from $13,279 to $356,999, with a median income of $64,623. The average District Attorneys earn between $64,627 and $162,013 per year, with the top 86 percent earning $356,999.
Real Estate Lawyer Salary
Real estate lawyers are responsible for assisting clients in disputes involving commercial or residential real estate concerns or challenges about tenants, zoning, and property development.
They also represent their clients in court, such as when a landlord sues a tenant for unpaid rent, among other things.
The average income for an estate lawyer is around $90,125, but this varies depending on experience and area.
Immigration Lawyer Salary
As of October 29, 2021, the average Immigration Attorney salary in the United States is $80,035; however, the salary range frequently ranges between $68,232 and $92,575.
Salary varies depending on a variety of factors such as education, certifications, supplemental skills, and the number of years you have worked in your area.
Patent Lawyer Salary
A patent lawyer’s job is to determine whether something is patentable or not, as well as issues concerning designs and trademarks. According to PayScale, the average salary for a patent lawyer is $129,500.
Tax Attorney Salary
Tax attorneys primarily represent a firm, organization, or individual in dealings with federal, state, and municipal taxing authorities. Their annual pay is $99,690.
Starting salaries in the field of tax law typically range between $55,000 and $83,000; lawyers who stay in the field can expect a consistent increase in annual earnings as their career continues.
Criminal Lawyer Salary
The responsibility of a criminal lawyer is to defend people, individuals, businesses, and society in court against criminal charges.
They investigate cases, conduct interviews, build defenses, oppose proposals, and may sometimes negotiate an out-of-court settlement.
The average wage for a criminal lawyer is $51,000, with some associates earning up to $115,000.
Conclusion on Highest Paid Lawyers
Admittedly, studying to be a lawyer is not exactly an easy task. Depending on the type of law, some will require you to earn a master’s degree in law, LL.M. However, one thing is for certain; the legal profession is wonderful lucrative.
We hope this post provided you with a comprehensive list of some of the highest paid lawyers and more general information about the legal profession.
FAQs on Highest Paid Lawyers
What Kind of Lawyer Makes the Most Money?
Medical lawyers earn one of the highest salaries in the legal profession. A medical attorney’s job will differ depending on the company for which they work.
Many lawyers in this sector focus on representing hospitals and medical firms. Others handle personal injury or medical malpractice lawsuits.
How Much Do Public Defenders Make?
In the United States, the average annual salary for a registered public defender is $68,511. A public defender’s income will vary depending on their degree, license, area, the number of hours spent, and level of experience.