Top 10 Highest Paying Legal Jobs & Careers 2024 (Inc Salaries)

Mark Talmage-Rostron
March 20, 2024 · 14 min read

Discover the top 10 highest-paying legal jobs for 2024, including salaries, to help you choose the right path in the lucrative field of law.

We've seen it all before on TV and in the movies. That tense courtroom drama where the accused stands in the dock being grilled under cross-examination by the state prosecutor, only to be defended in legal cases by their own legal council, all the while the jury hangs on to their every word, ready to deliberate.

Being in the legal trade means that for any type of lawyer, such as a patent attorney, tax attorney, patent lawyer, or medical lawyer, no two days are ever the same, especially for ip lawyers and immigration lawyers, making it a challenging but yet a very lucrative vocation. Lucrative because lawyers have to study for many years but come out highly specialized and, as a result, able to command high salaries throughout their legal career.

Based on data from PayScale.com, the average annual salary for lawyers who work in the United States is approximately $87,012. The average starting lawyer salary typically begins around $52,000 annually and can escalate to as high as $157,000+ per year. These salary ranges are subject to diverse factors such as experience level, geographic location, and specialized area of practice, all of which significantly influence compensation within the legal profession.

Additionally, for those with a law degree, the profession provides opportunities for advancement, with partnerships in law firms offering significant earning potential, depending on the law you specialize in and various legal qualifications.

All in all, lawyers often represent their clients in legal issues and provide legal services and legal expertise and as such play a crucial role in upholding the rule of law, defending the rights of the marginalized, and shaping the legal frameworks that govern communities. This sense of purpose and the opportunity to effect meaningful change make the legal profession deeply rewarding for those committed to justice and societal progress.

Top 10 Highest Paying Legal Jobs 2024 (Inc Salaries)

1. Counsel

A counsel is a legal professional who provides expert advice and guidance on legal matters to individuals, organizations, or governmental entities. They may specialize in various areas of law, such as corporate law, employment law, intellectual property law, or litigation, and typically offer legal analysis, draft legal documents, negotiate agreements, and represent clients in legal proceedings when necessary. In some contexts, counsel may also refer to a senior lawyer within a law firm or organization who provides guidance and mentorship to junior attorneys.

The average annual salary for a legal counsel in the US is $171,288 and as such it is one of the highest salaries in the legal profession.

2. Intellectual Property Paralegal

An intellectual property paralegal is a specialized legal professional who assists attorneys and clients with matters related to intellectual property (IP) law. Their primary role involves providing support in the management, protection, and enforcement of intellectual property rights, including patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets.

Generally, they perform various tasks, such as conducting research to assess the viability and strength of intellectual property claims, assisting with the preparation and filing of patent and trademark applications, maintaining IP databases and records, corresponding with government agencies and clients, and assisting with IP litigation by organizing documents and evidence.

All in all, intellectual property paralegals play a crucial role in helping legal teams navigate the complexities of intellectual property law and ensuring that intellectual property assets are adequately protected.

The average annual salary for an intellectual property paralegal in the US is $104,097.

3. Attorney

An attorney, also known as a lawyer, is a professional who is licensed to practice law and provide legal advice legal knowledge to individuals, organizations, or governmental entities in legal matters.

These legal eagles typically specialize in specific areas of law, such as criminal law, civil law, corporate law, family law, intellectual property law, or environmental law, among others, and their duties may include advising clients on legal rights and obligations, drafting legal documents such as contracts, wills, or pleadings, negotiating settlements, representing clients in court proceedings, and advocating on behalf of clients in legal disputes.

Important to note is that attorneys must adhere to ethical and professional standards established by regulatory bodies in their jurisdiction, and they are typically required to earn a degree from a law school, pass a bar examination, and obtain a license to practice law in the jurisdiction where they intend to work.

The average annual salary for an attorney in the US is $104,290. making it one of the highest-paying jobs in the legal industry.

4. Contracts Lawyer

A contracts lawyer is a legal professional who specializes in drafting, reviewing, negotiating, and advising on contracts. These contracts can encompass a wide range of agreements, including business contracts, employment contracts, real estate contracts, construction contracts, and more.

As it says on the tin, they ensure that contracts accurately reflect the intentions of the parties involved, protect their clients' interests, and comply with relevant laws and regulations. And they may also assist in resolving disputes that arise from contractual agreements through negotiation, mediation, or litigation.

When all is said and done, contracts lawyers play a crucial role in helping individuals and businesses navigate the complexities of contractual relationships and ensure that their rights and obligations are clearly defined and enforceable.

The average annual salary for a contracts lawyer in the US is $163,800 making it one of the highest paid lawyers around.

Are you ready to take your career to the next level?

Nexford's Career Path Planner takes into account your experience and interests to provide you with a customized roadmap to success.

Receive personalized advice on the skills and qualifications you need to get ahead in areas like finance, marketing, management and entrepreneurship.

Take the quiz to get started now!

5. Employment Lawyer

An employment lawyer is a legal professional who specializes in matters related to employment law. Their primary focus is on issues arising in the workplace, including but not limited to employment contracts, workplace discrimination, harassment, wrongful termination, wage and hour disputes, employee benefits, and compliance with labor laws and regulations.

As a whole, they provide legal advice and representation to both employees and employers, helping them understand their rights and obligations under employment law and advocating on their behalf in legal proceedings when disputes arise.

Employment lawyers may also assist with drafting employment contracts, employee handbooks, and workplace policies to ensure compliance with relevant laws and may represent clients in administrative proceedings before government agencies such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or in court litigation.

The average annual salary for an employment lawyer in the US is $102,634.

6. Litigation Lawyer

A litigation lawyer, also known as a trial lawyer, is a legal professional who specializes in representing clients in civil lawsuits or disputes that are brought before a court of law. Their primary role involves advocating for their clients' interests throughout the litigation process, which typically includes pre-trial procedures, trial proceedings, and any appeals that may follow. Secondary tasks include handling a wide range of cases, including commercial disputes, personal injury claims, employment disputes, contract disputes, and more.

As a rule of thumb, a litigation lawyer's responsibilities may include conducting legal research, drafting legal documents such as pleadings, motions, and briefs, gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, and negotiating settlements.

To make a success out of this profession, you'll need to posses strong analytical, negotiation, and advocacy skills, as well as a deep understanding of procedural and substantive law relevant to your practice area.

The average annual salary for a litigation lawyer in the US is $127,368. making it one of the high-paying jobs in the legal industry.

7. Chief Legal Officer

A chief legal officer (CLO), also sometimes referred to as general counsel (GC), is the highest-ranking legal executive within an organization. They are responsible for overseeing all legal matters and providing strategic legal guidance to the organization's leadership team and board of directors, and their role encompasses a wide range of responsibilities.

Providing legal advice and guidance on a broad spectrum of issues affecting the organization, including corporate governance, regulatory compliance, contractual matters, intellectual property, employment law, litigation, and risk management.

Ensuring that the organization operates in compliance with relevant laws, regulations, and industry standards, and developing and implementing compliance programs to mitigate legal and regulatory risks.

Advising on corporate governance matters, including board governance, ethics, conflicts of interest, and disclosure obligations, and ensuring compliance with corporate governance best practices and legal requirements.

And, probably most importantly, overseeing the organization's legal department, including staffing, budgeting, resource allocation, outside counsel management, and implementing processes and technologies to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of legal operations.

The average annual salary for a chief legal officer in the US is $382,810 making it one of the highest-paid lawyers around.

8. Family Lawyer

A family lawyer is a legal professional who specializes in handling legal matters related to family law. Family law encompasses a wide range of issues that affect families and individuals, including marriage, divorce, child custody and visitation, child support, spousal support (alimony), adoption, paternity, domestic violence, property division, and prenuptial agreements.

Their main role encompasses assisting clients in navigating the legal complexities associated with these matters and providing guidance and representation throughout the legal process. But there are many other responsibilities that the role encompasses.

Assisting clients with filing for divorce or legal separation, negotiating terms of divorce settlements, and representing clients in divorce proceedings in court.

Helping clients establish legal custody arrangements (physical and legal custody) and visitation schedules that are in the best interests of the children involved and advocating for clients' rights in child custody disputes.

Advising clients on their rights and obligations regarding child support payments and spousal support (alimony), and representing clients in negotiations or court proceedings to establish or modify support orders.

And, providing legal assistance and representation to victims of domestic violence seeking protection orders (restraining orders) against abusive partners and advocating for their rights in legal proceedings.

The average annual salary for a family lawyer in the US is $102,634 but lawyers with more experience could command more money.

9. General Counsel

A general counsel (GC) is a senior executive in a corporation or organization who serves as the chief legal officer and head of the legal department and typically reports directly to the CEO or another high-level executive, such as the President or the Board of Directors. But, as always, they also have other responsibilities.

Providing legal advice and guidance to the organization's leadership team and board of directors on a broad spectrum of legal matters affecting the business, including corporate governance, regulatory compliance, contractual matters, intellectual property, employment law, litigation, and risk management.

Identifying and assessing legal risks associated with the organization's operations, transactions, and strategic initiatives, and developing strategies to manage and mitigate those risks effectively.

Ensuring that the organization operates in compliance with relevant laws, regulations, and industry standards, and developing and implementing compliance programs to mitigate legal and regulatory risks.

Advising on corporate governance matters, including board governance, ethics, conflicts of interest, and disclosure obligations, and ensuring compliance with corporate governance best practices and legal requirements.

And overseeing the organization's legal department, including staffing, budgeting, resource allocation, and outside counsel management, and implementing processes and technologies to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of legal operations.

The average annual salary for a general counsel in the US is $363,750 making it one of the highest-paid types of lawyers in the legal field.

10. Corporate Lawyer

A corporate lawyer is a legal professional who specializes in corporate law, which involves advising businesses and corporations on a wide range of legal matters related to their operations, transactions, and governance. They typically work with businesses of all sizes, from startups to multinational corporations, and provide legal advice and representation across various areas of corporate law. This is usually widely spread.

Assisting clients with choosing the appropriate legal structure for their business, such as forming corporations, limited liability companies (LLCs), partnerships, or sole proprietorships, and drafting necessary documents for incorporation or formation.

Advising on corporate governance matters, including compliance with corporate laws and regulations, board of directors' duties and responsibilities, shareholder rights, and corporate governance best practices.

Assisting clients in mergers, acquisitions, divestitures, joint ventures, and other corporate transactions, including conducting due diligence, negotiating and drafting transaction documents, and facilitating the closing of deals.

Providing legal advice on corporate finance matters, such as debt and equity financing, tax-related legal issues, venture capital and private equity investments, corporate restructuring, and securities offerings.

And negotiating and drafting various commercial contracts and agreements, including employment contracts, vendor agreements, licensing agreements, distribution agreements, and other business contracts.

The average annual salary for a corporate lawyer in the US is $153,267 as it is a legal specialization that is in demand.

As has been noted, being a lawyer can bring with it a healthy paycheck at the end of each month. But, that said, money can only come with a specialized qualification after your name. Unlock your full potential in the legal profession by expanding your skillset with a BBA or MBA. A degree can elevate your career trajectory, provide opportunities for promotion, and boost your earning potential. It also helps to equip yourself with the competitive edge needed to stand out in a crowded field and command those higher salaries.

FAQs

What is the highest paying legal job in 2024?

Pardon the pun, but the jury may not be out on this. There is much speculation around this, and the parameters usually rest on qualifications, but generally, experts will agree that the highest-paying legal job is that of a chief legal officer, who can expect to earn a cool average salary of $382,810 per annum in the US.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which legal jobs are projected to have the highest level of growth?

Employment of paralegals and legal assistants is projected to grow 4 percent from 2022 to 2032, about as fast as the average for all occupations. About 38,000 openings for paralegals and legal assistants are projected each year, on average, over the decade.

What is the best law career path in 2024?

According to LawFuel, notable roles that will continue to evolve and develop in 2024 include those of corporate lawyers, who, virtually on a daily basis, are asked to navigate an increasingly global and complex business environment. The reason why the post is in high demand is that these legal experts are skilled at advising on mergers and acquisitions, corporate governance, and compliance with financial regulations.

Second to those are criminal defense lawyers. The significance of criminal defense lawyers persists, notably with the increasing focus on digital evidence and innovative forensic techniques. There exists ample opportunity to cultivate a stimulating and lucrative career in this field, especially by honing expertise in specialized areas of criminal law that are gaining prominence.

What skills or expertise is required for high-paying legal jobs?

High-paying legal jobs often require a combination of specialized skills, expertise, and qualities, but generally you will require:

A deep knowledge and understanding of relevant laws, regulations, and legal principles within the specific area of practice, whether it's corporate law, intellectual property law, litigation, or another field.

Strong analytical skills to assess complex legal issues, identify relevant facts, and develop effective legal strategies and arguments.

The ability to analyze problems, think creatively, and develop innovative solutions to legal challenges faced by clients or organizations.

A deep understanding of business principles, financial concepts, and industry-specific dynamics is valuable for legal professionals involved in corporate law, mergers and acquisitions, and other business-related legal matters.

And a large dose of adaptability. As the legal landscape is constantly evolving, so flexibility and adaptability are essential for staying abreast of changes in laws, regulations, and industry trends, as well as adapting to new technologies and emerging legal issues.

Learn how to develop the most in-demand skills for your future career!

Discover how you can acquire the most in-demand skills with our free report, and open the doors to a successful career. 

Download the free report today!

What qualifications are required for high paying legal jobs?

Qualifications required for high-paying legal jobs can vary depending on the specific role, industry, and employer preferences, but typical qualifications required are:

A Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree from an accredited law school is the minimum educational requirement for practicing law in most jurisdictions. Some high-paying legal positions may also prefer candidates with advanced degrees, such as a Master of Laws (LL.M.) or a specialized Master's degree in areas like business administration (MBA) or tax law.

Passing the bar exam and meeting other requirements for admission to the bar. Holding an active license to practice law in relevant jurisdictions is often a prerequisite for high-paying legal jobs.

And acquiring specialized expertise in specific areas of law, such as corporate law, intellectual property law, tax law, securities law, or litigation, is a definite plus. Obtaining certifications, advanced training, or specialized knowledge in these areas can enhance qualifications for such roles.

Why is it beneficial to gain a BBA/MBA degree to gain a career in law?

Obtaining a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) or a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree can significantly benefit individuals pursuing a career in law.

These degrees equip aspiring lawyers with essential skills in areas such as finance, management, strategic planning, and critical thinking, which are invaluable in the legal profession. Moreover, the interdisciplinary nature of BBA/MBA programs fosters versatile problem-solving abilities and enhances communication skills, essential for effective advocacy and client representation.

Ultimately, a BBA/MBA degree provides a strong foundation for a successful career in law, offering graduates a competitive edge in a dynamic and increasingly interconnected legal landscape.

Conclusion

In conclusion, entering the legal industry offers a plethora of benefits and opportunities for individuals with a passion for justice, critical thinking, and problem-solving. Beyond the potential for lucrative career paths, the legal profession provides a platform for individuals to make meaningful contributions to society, advocate for change, and uphold the principles of fairness and equality.

Moreover, the diverse range of specialties within the field allows for personal and professional growth, catering to various interests and aspirations. Whether it's through representing clients, shaping legislation, or mediating disputes, pursuing a career in law offers a fulfilling journey filled with intellectual challenges and the chance to make a positive impact on individuals, organizations, and communities alike.

As has been noted, being a lawyer can bring with it a healthy paycheck at the end of each month. But, that said, money can only come with a specialized qualification after your name. Unlock your full potential in the legal profession by expanding your skillset with a BBA or MBA. A degree can elevate your career trajectory, provide opportunities for promotion, and boost your earning potential. It also helps to equip yourself with the competitive edge needed to stand out in a crowded field and command those higher salaries.

If you are looking to learn more about the key hard and soft skills deemed necessary to succeed in the ever-evolving legal industry, download our free report.

About the author
Mark Talmage-Rostron
Mark Talmage-Rostron

Mark is a college graduate with Honours in Copywriting. He is the Content Marketing Manager at Nexford, creating engaging, thought-provoking, and action-oriented content.

Join our newsletter and be the first to receive news about our programs, events and articles.