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Summary

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Video transcript available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aK2PVtgWLp8.
Quick Facts: Lawyers
2023 Median Pay $145,760 per year
$70.08 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Doctoral or professional degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2022 826,300
Job Outlook, 2022-32 8% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2022-32 62,400

What Lawyers Do

Lawyers advise and represent clients on legal proceedings or transactions.

Work Environment

Lawyers work for a variety of organizations, usually in office settings. Some work for federal, local, or state governments. Most work full time, and some work more than 40 hours per week.

How to Become a Lawyer

Lawyers typically need a law degree and a state license, which usually requires passing a bar examination.

Pay

The median annual wage for lawyers was $145,760 in May 2023.

Job Outlook

Employment of lawyers is projected to grow 8 percent from 2022 to 2032, faster than the average for all occupations.

About 39,100 openings for lawyers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for lawyers.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of lawyers with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about lawyers by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Lawyers Do About this section

Lawyers
Lawyers represent clients in criminal or civil proceedings, including trials.

Lawyers advise and represent clients on legal proceedings or transactions.

Duties

Lawyers typically do the following:

  • Advise and represent clients in criminal or civil proceedings and in other legal matters
  • Communicate with clients, colleagues, judges, and others involved in a case
  • Conduct research and analysis of legal issues
  • Interpret laws, rulings, and regulations for individuals and businesses
  • Present facts and findings relevant to a case on behalf of their clients
  • Prepare and file legal documents, such as lawsuits, contracts, and wills

Lawyers, also called attorneys, research the intent of laws and judicial decisions and determine whether they apply to the specific circumstances of their client’s case. They act as both advocates and advisors for one party in a criminal (offense against the state or the nation) or civil (matters between individuals or organizations) proceeding.

As advocates, they may present evidence and argue in support of their client for settlements outside of court, such as through plea bargaining or arbitration, or during court appearances, such as in hearings and trials. As advisors, they counsel clients about their legal rights, obligations, and options and suggest courses of action.

Lawyers may have different titles and duties, depending on where they work.

For example, in law firms, lawyers perform legal work for individuals or businesses. Those who represent clients accused of wrongdoing or carelessness may be called criminal law attorneys or defense attorneys. Those whose expertise includes representing clients in trials are sometimes called litigators or trial lawyers.

Corporate counsels, also called in-house counsels, are lawyers who work for a single organization. They advise the organization’s executives about legal issues related to its business activities, such as patents, contracts with other companies, taxes, and collective-bargaining agreements with unions.

Attorneys in federal, state, and local governments may have a variety of titles, including prosecutor, public defender, or general counsel. Prosecutors typically pursue the government’s charges against an individual or organization accused of violating the law. Public defense attorneys represent criminal defendants who cannot afford to hire a private attorney. Government counsels help write regulations, interpret laws, and set up enforcement procedures, and they may argue cases on behalf of the government.

Public-interest lawyers work for organizations that provide legal services to disadvantaged people or to others who otherwise might not be able to afford legal representation. They often handle cases involving issues related to social justice or individual liberty, such as housing discrimination or consumer rights.

Lawyers may oversee the work of support staff, such as paralegals and legal assistants and legal secretaries.

In addition to working in different industries, lawyers may specialize in particular legal fields, including the following:

Environmental lawyers deal with issues and regulations that are related to the natural world. They may work for advocacy groups, waste disposal companies, or corporations. In government agencies, such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, they help to ensure compliance with relevant laws.

Family lawyers handle a variety of legal issues that pertain to spousal, parent-child, and other familial relationships. They may advise and advocate for clients in proceedings on topics such as divorce, child custody, and adoption. Family lawyers also may work for local, state, or federal agencies to ensure compliance with relevant government regulations.

Intellectual property lawyers deal with the laws related to inventions, patents, trademarks, and creative works, such as music, books, and movies. For example, an intellectual property lawyer may advise clients about whether they may use published material in a forthcoming book. Some intellectual property lawyers work for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Personal injury lawyers represent clients in civil proceedings who have been harmed by the actions or lack of action by another party.

Securities lawyers work on legal issues arising from the buying and selling of financial instruments. They may advise corporations that are interested in listing on a stock exchange through an initial public offering (IPO) or in buying shares in another corporation. In government, they may work for their state’s securities regulator or for a federal regulatory agency, such as the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Tax lawyers handle a variety of tax-related issues for individuals and organizations. They may help clients navigate complex tax regulations, handle tax disputes, and represent clients in court on tax-related matters. Tax lawyers also may work for government agencies, such as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Those who handle a range of legal issues without specializing in a particular area of law are known as general practice lawyers. These lawyers may handle criminal and civil matters related to common legal matters, such as traffic violations, wills and estate planning, and real estate negotiations.

Work Environment About this section

Lawyers
Lawyers typically work in law offices.

Lawyers held about 826,300 jobs in 2022. The largest employers of lawyers were as follows:

Legal services 52%
Self-employed workers 13
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 8
State government, excluding education and hospitals 6
Federal government 5

Lawyers work mostly in office settings. They may travel to meet with current or prospective clients at various locations, such as homes or prisons, and to appear in court.

Lawyers’ work may be stressful, such as during trials or when meeting deadlines.

Work Schedules

Most lawyers work full time, and some work more than 40 hours per week. Lawyers who are self-employed may have flexibility in setting their own schedules.

How to Become a Lawyer About this section

Lawyers
Lawyers typically need a law degree and a state license, usually from passing a bar examination.

Lawyers typically need a law degree and a state license, which usually requires passing a bar examination.

Education

Becoming a lawyer usually takes 7 years of full-time study after high school: 4 years of undergraduate study followed by 3 years of law school. Although most law schools do not require a specific bachelor's degree for entry, common undergraduate fields of study include law and legal studies, history, and social science.

Most states and jurisdictions require lawyers to earn a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree from a law school accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA). ABA-accredited programs include courses such as constitutional law, contracts, property law, civil procedure, and legal writing.

As part of their admissions process, law schools may consider an applicant’s score on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). LSAT questions cover reasoning, writing, and other aptitudes needed for the study of law.

Those interested in pursuing a career in some legal fields may need to meet additional requirements. For example, patent lawyers typically need a degree, specific credits, or a background in science or engineering and must pass an exam administered by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (commonly known as the patent bar exam). Tax lawyers may choose to earn a Master of Laws (LL.M) degree in tax after completing a J.D. program.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Prospective lawyers take a licensing exam, called the “bar exam.” Most states have adopted the Uniform Bar Exam, which is coordinated by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE). A score from the uniform exam is transferable across jurisdictions that accept it.

Lawyers who receive a license to practice law are “admitted to the bar.” Each state’s highest court establishes its rules for bar admission. Rules for federal courts differ, and requirements vary by state and jurisdiction. For more details on individual state and jurisdiction requirements, visit the NCBE.

Most states require that applicants graduate from an ABA-accredited law school, pass the written bar exam, and be found by an admitting board to have the character to represent and advise others. Prior felony convictions, academic misconduct, and a history of substance abuse are examples of factors that may disqualify an applicant from being admitted to the bar.

Lawyers who want to practice in more than one state usually must meet licensing requirements for each state in which they wish to work. Most states have reciprocity agreements that streamline the process for lawyers licensed in one state to get licensed in another state.

After bar admission, lawyers must keep informed about legal developments that affect their practice. States may require lawyers to participate in continuing legal education to maintain licensure.

Other Experience

Law students who have completed their first or second year of law school may be eligible for part-time jobs or summer internships in law firms, government agencies, and organizations’ legal departments. Gaining experience in these summer positions may help law students decide on an area of legal focus for their careers. As for students in many fields, successful completion of a summer job or internship may result in an offer of employment after graduation.

Some law school graduates pursue a judicial clerkship prior to working as a lawyer. Clerkships are typically a specified length of time, such as 1- or 2-year terms, and help law school graduates develop skills required for a legal career. Judges may prefer to hire clerks who have passed the bar exam, but clerks may work without a law license because they have limited duties and are not yet practicing lawyers.

Advancement

Newly hired attorneys usually start as associates and work on teams with more experienced lawyers. Some lawyers advance to become partners, which means that they are partial owners of the firm.

After gaining experience, some lawyers go into practice for themselves. Others may move to a large organization, either working in its legal department or as in-house counsel.

Some experienced lawyers become judges. Most judges must be appointed or elected to their positions, a procedure that often requires political support.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Lawyers interpret the law as it applies to their client’s case. They must be able to evaluate large amounts of information, interpret relevant findings, and apply them to facts.

Communication skills. Lawyers must be able to clearly present and explain information to clients, opposing parties, and other members of the legal community. They also need to be precise when preparing documents, such as court filings and wills.

Interpersonal skills. Lawyers must build relationships with current and prospective clients, as well as with their colleagues and other members of the legal community.

Persuasion. Lawyers work to convince others that particular laws or findings apply to their client’s case in a way that is most favorable to their client.

Problem-solving skills. Lawyers must evaluate information to propose viable solutions, mediate disputes, and reach agreements or settlements for their clients.

Research skills. Lawyers need to find laws and regulations that apply to a specific matter in order to provide appropriate legal advice for their clients.

Pay About this section

Lawyers

Median annual wages, May 2023

Lawyers

$145,760

Legal occupations

$99,220

Total, all occupations

$48,060

 

The median annual wage for lawyers was $145,760 in May 2023. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $69,760, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $239,200.

In May 2023, the median annual wages for lawyers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Federal government $166,030
Legal services 137,350
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 117,070
State government, excluding education and hospitals 100,670

These wage data do not cover self-employed workers or owners and partners of unincorporated businesses.

Most lawyers work full time, and some work more than 40 hours per week. Lawyers who are self-employed may have flexibility in setting their own schedules.

Job Outlook About this section

Lawyers

Percent change in employment, projected 2022-32

Lawyers

8%

Legal occupations

6%

Total, all occupations

3%

 

Employment of lawyers is projected to grow 8 percent from 2022 to 2032, faster than the average for all occupations.

About 39,100 openings for lawyers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

Demand for legal work is expected to continue as individuals, businesses, and all levels of government require legal services in many areas.

Despite this need for legal services, more price competition over the projections decade may lead law firms to rethink project staffing to reduce costs to clients. Clients are expected to cut back on legal expenses by negotiating rates and scrutinizing invoices. Some routine legal work may be outsourced to lower cost legal providers located overseas.

Although law firms will continue to be among the largest employers of lawyers, many large corporations are increasing their in-house legal departments to cut costs.

Employment projections data for lawyers, 2022-32
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2022 Projected Employment, 2032 Change, 2022-32 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Lawyers

23-1011 826,300 888,700 8 62,400 Get data

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS)

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OEWS data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.org. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of lawyers.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help on Entry-Level Education 2023 MEDIAN PAY Help on Median Pay
arbitrators mediators and conciliators image Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators

Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators facilitate negotiation and dialogue between disputing parties to help resolve conflicts outside of the court system.

Bachelor's degree $71,540
Judges, mediators, and hearing officers Judges and Hearing Officers

Judges and hearing officers oversee legal matters in court or administrative proceedings.

Doctoral or professional degree $132,950
Paralegals and legal assistants Paralegals and Legal Assistants

Paralegals and legal assistants perform a variety of tasks to support lawyers

Associate's degree $60,970
Postsecondary teachers Postsecondary Teachers

Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a variety of academic subjects beyond the high school level.

See How to Become One $84,380

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about law schools and a career in law, visit

American Bar Association

National Association for Law Placement

For more information about the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) and the law school application process, visit

Law School Admission Council

For a list of state and jurisdiction admission bar offices, visit

National Conference of Bar Examiners

For information about the requirements for admission to the bar in a particular state or jurisdiction, visit the state’s licensing agency online. State and local government websites also usually have information about job vacancies.

To apply for positions with the federal government, visit

USAJobs

Occupational Requirements Survey

For a profile highlighting selected BLS data on occupational requirements, see

Lawyers (PDF)

O*NET

Lawyers

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Lawyers,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/legal/lawyers.htm (visited April 22, 2024).

Last Modified Date: Wednesday, April 17, 2024

What They Do

The What They Do tab describes the typical duties and responsibilities of workers in the occupation, including what tools and equipment they use and how closely they are supervised. This tab also covers different types of occupational specialties.

Work Environment

The Work Environment tab includes the number of jobs held in the occupation and describes the workplace, the level of physical activity expected, and typical hours worked. It may also discuss the major industries that employed the occupation. This tab may also describe opportunities for part-time work, the amount and type of travel required, any safety equipment that is used, and the risk of injury that workers may face.

How to Become One

The How to Become One tab describes how to prepare for a job in the occupation. This tab can include information on education, training, work experience, licensing and certification, and important qualities that are required or helpful for entering or working in the occupation.

Pay

The Pay tab describes typical earnings and how workers in the occupation are compensated—annual salaries, hourly wages, commissions, tips, or bonuses. Within every occupation, earnings vary by experience, responsibility, performance, tenure, and geographic area. For most profiles, this tab has a table with wages in the major industries employing the occupation. It does not include pay for self-employed workers, agriculture workers, or workers in private households because these data are not collected by the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) survey, the source of BLS wage data in the OOH.

State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's CareerOneStop.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

The Similar Occupations tab describes occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile.

Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2023 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics survey. In May 2023, the median annual wage for all workers was $48,060.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2022

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2022, which is the base year of the 2022-32 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2022-32

The projected percent change in employment from 2022 to 2032. The average growth rate for all occupations is 3 percent.

Employment Change, 2022-32

The projected numeric change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2022-32

The projected numeric change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2022 to 2032.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

2023 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics survey. In May 2023, the median annual wage for all workers was $48,060.