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The lowdown on lawyer salaries

Income inequality has been a theme during this political season and a recent study of lawyer salaries shows some significant income disparities among lawyers, based on their areas of practice.

Big-firm lawyers and select high-achievers in all practice categories may be making big bucks, but a growing gap in lawyer incomes may be depressing overall salary rates. Only four out of 10 practice groups surveyed had an annual salary that broke six figures.

Virginia’s many intellectual practice lawyers will be happy to hear that IP lawyers’ average annual salary of $155,037 tops the list in a recent survey by Practice Panther, a purveyor of law practice management software. That figure is 50 percent more than corporate attorneys and double the average salary of a personal injury or divorce attorney, according to Practice Panther.

Healthcare lawyers checked in at second place, with $146,590, and real estate lawyers showed an average salary of $118,000. Bankruptcy lawyers reportedly earned an average of $113,000, and corporate lawyers $98,244. In descending rank, other practice groups earned the following average salaries: Criminal defense lawyers: $78,500; personal injury lawyers: $73,000; family law attorneys: $71,336; civil rights lawyers: $69,000 and immigration attorneys: $62,250.

The software vendors says it produced its comparisons with data drawn from the American Bar Association, Glassdoor, Salary.com and the National Association for Law Placement.


  1. I find it very hard to believe that criminal defense lawyers make more than personal injury lawyers. Could that be right?

  2. Yes. I provide criminal defense work. The bulk of my clients are poor, to moderate income people. Not rich drug lords with thousands of dollars. Most people aren’t sitting around with a few thousand dollars on hand. You also can’t run a criminal defense practice like a mill and systematically crank out settlements. Each case needs individualized attention. Personal injury is part of my practice, the money usually comes from an insurance policy. My largest payouts have always been on the personal injury side. We often take criminal defense cases with little profit margin, especially if they go to trial.

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