How much you could earn as a lawyer would depend on a variety of factors. The four main variables, however, are the following: your location, the type of clients that you have, the type of cases that you handle and your length of experience in the job. Of course, many, if not most, lawyers today do independent practice and charge their clients on an hourly rate. If you’re fresh from law school, however, chances are you might work for a firm or agency first. Well, whatever the circumstance are, those variables still play important roles in determining criminal lawyer salary in the country.
According to the Department of Labor, the average annual median paycheck for lawyers in the United States in 2008 was $110,590. Based on the available statistics, however, your annual income range could fall to as low as $40,000 or climb to as much as $350,000, or even millions, depending on the above mentioned factors.
Your location would play an important role in the range that your salary could reach because this would tend to dictate the type of clients and cases that you will get. In practice, lawyers in the big cities, such as New York and Washington, tend to earn more than those in smaller cities and towns. Obviously, most of the big-shot clients and downright top cases can be found in these areas. This high criminal lawyer salary, however, could also be attributed to the fact that the costs of living in the big cities are undoubtedly higher, and hence the salaries are meant to match up such costs.
Your location, however, couldn’t solely dictate the salary that you will get for your practice. The type of practice that one pursues is another major influence in determining one’s income. Currently, the nature of the market tends to decide that there’s bound to be more money if you go into private practice catering to the richer slice of the population. Wealthier clients undoubtedly spell better prices for your services. Furthermore, private firms tend to provide higher salaries than, say, government agencies, unless of course you’re serving as one of the top lawyers in one of the government’s legal divisions.
Your qualifications are another deciding factor on how high your criminal lawyer salary could reach. Not all fresh bar passers would be lucky to land a job in the top firms, where the pay usually start at $60,000 to $70,000. If you don’t pass the qualifications often required by the top law firms (this usually means being part of the top population of your class in one of the top law schools in the country), there are chances that you might start at salary rates ranging from $30,000 to $50,000. Indeed, this is a dilemma often faced by newly licensed lawyers, regardless of whether you are in the big cities or in the smaller ones.
Ultimately, your experience, or how much you have inside your bag, could essentially decide how much you could be earning. Obviously, those lawyers who can boast of an impressive portfolio of won cases are the ones capable of making millions a year.