How Much Do Lawyers Make? (With Career Paths and Salaries)

Updated 26 July 2023

Working as a lawyer can offer you many exciting career opportunities in the legal field. Depending on your speciality and your location, you could earn a wide salary range as a lawyer. Learning how much different lawyers make can help you determine whether this career path is the right choice for you and choose a speciality that suits your professional goals. In this article, we discuss how much lawyers make, explore high-paying cities and the job outlook for lawyers and review different types of legal careers.

How much do lawyers make?

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location. Please note that none of the companies mentioned in the article are affiliated with Indeed.

The answer to 'how much do lawyers make?' depends on the type of work they do. A lawyer is anyone who has been admitted to the legal profession including solicitors, barristers and judges. Within these roles, lawyers can specialise in one of many practice areas. The national average salary for a lawyer is $99,996 per year, which includes all types of lawyers. Other factors that may influence your salary include your level of education, your experience in the field, the region where you work and your employer.

Highest-paying cities for lawyers

Some cities have higher average salaries for lawyers than others. Here are some of the highest-paying cities and commercial centres for lawyers in the country:

  • Sydney CBD, NSW: $121,289 per year

  • Thursday Island, QLD: $117,366 per year

  • Parramatta, NSW: $116,924 per year

  • Perth, WA: $110,036 per year

  • Brisbane, QLD: $108,557 per year

  • Melbourne CBD, VIC: $98,258 per year

Job outlook for lawyers

According to the Australian Government's Job Outlook website, the agency expects job opportunities for judicial and other legal professionals to grow strongly over the next five years. Although the number of professionals in this field decreased in 2020, they expect the number to increase from approximately 10,800 to 11,700 between now and 2025. The industry with the most legal professionals is public administration and safety followed by professional, scientific and technical services. The three states and territories that hire the most lawyers are New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland.

Related: How to Become a Human Rights Lawyer: A Step-by-Step Guide

10 types of legal careers

If you're interested in pursuing a legal career, you can work as a judge, barrister or solicitor role in one of many specialities. You might also consider related roles in the legal field. Here are 10 different legal careers to explore if you're interested in becoming a lawyer:

1. Barrister

National average salary: $66,991 per year

Primary duties: A barrister is a lawyer who works with a solicitor to assist clients during legal proceedings. Barristers primarily appear in court on behalf of their clients instead of managing their daily legal activities. Some primary duties of a barrister may include providing their clients with legal advice about their cases, managing court applications, drafting court documents for solicitors, helping their clients understand complex legal topics relevant to their cases and crafting legal arguments that may help their clients achieve optimal outcomes during court proceedings.

Related: Barrister vs Lawyer (with Job Definitions and Differences)

2. Judge

National average salary: $68,184 per year

Primary duties: A judge is a lawyer who interprets how the law applies to specific cases in court proceedings. They often work at a district court level, where they may handle criminal court cases, which involve legal violations or civil court cases concerning disputes between two parties. The primary duties of a judge may include making the final decision in court cases, presiding over juries in jury trials, explaining complex legal matters to the jury during trials and determining the penalty for people found guilty of criminal offences.

3. Legal assistant

National average salary: $68,436 per year

Primary duties: A legal assistant is a legal professional who provides administrative and clerical support duties to barristers and solicitors. Also known as an assistant paralegal, a legal assistant helps paralegals complete their tasks. Although they cannot provide legal advice, legal assistants have many important duties, which may include documenting court actions and decisions, organising client files, serving court summonses and subpoenas, managing witness and jury lists and assisting lawyers during court proceedings.

Read more: What Is a Paralegal? (Plus Responsibilities and Types)

4. Court registrar

National average salary: $84,036 per year

Primary duties: A court registrar is a legal professional who works within a court registry, which people visit to file legal forms with the court, pay fines and manage certain legal matters. Court registrars assist them by handling administrative and clerical tasks. Some of their primary duties include answering queries for the public, preparing court lists, filing legal forms such as those that begin civil proceedings, maintaining physical and digital copies of court files, administering oaths in the court, keeping records of court proceedings and managing court schedules throughout the day.

Related: What Is a Court Registrar? (Duties and How to Become One)

5. Family solicitor

National average salary: $92,671 per year

Primary duties: A family solicitor is a solicitor who specialises in handling family law cases, such as adoption, custody and divorce. They help their clients manage court proceedings related to family issues and present arguments to persuade the judge to rule in their favour. Other primary duties of family solicitors may include meeting with clients to determine the circumstances of their case, determining an approach to handling the court proceedings that may benefit the client, overseeing mediation sessions, organising all documentation related to the case and keeping clients updated on the progress of their cases.

Related: How to Become a Solicitor (With Duties, Salary and FAQs)

6. Solicitor

National average salary: $100,164 per year

Primary duties: A solicitor is a lawyer who specialises in managing each aspect of their client's cases. Solicitors may work alone or with a barrister, particularly for complex cases. They can specialise in areas such as family, immigration and criminal law. The primary duties of a solicitor may include meeting with clients to determine their legal needs, communicating with each client to update them on the progress of their case, managing court documents and negotiations and delegating specific tasks to barristers based on each case.

Related: Attorney vs Lawyer: What's the Difference?

7. Legal officer

National average salary: $109,967 per year

Primary duties: A legal officer is a legal professional who provides support to government officials who develop and implement legal policies. The primary duties of a legal officer may include performing research on complex and sensitive legal topics, assisting public authorities in developing strategies for creating and maintaining legal policies, monitoring emerging issues relevant to existing or potential legislation and nurturing relationships with the public and government stakeholders. Legal officers may work at the federal, state, territory or local level.

8. Litigation lawyer

National average salary: $113,555 per year

Primary duties: A litigation lawyer is a lawyer who specialises in representing their clients' interests in civil and criminal cases. They protect their clients in court by using defensive strategies to attempt to prove their innocence, diminish their responsibility for a dispute or reduce their legal penalties. Some primary duties of a litigation lawyer may include overseeing negotiation and mediation, filing court documentation on a client's behalf, advising clients on strategies that may improve the outcome of their cases, keeping clients updated on the progress of their court proceedings, attending hearings to make defending arguments and managing clients' court appeals.

9. General counsel

National average salary: $135,915 per year

Primary duties: A general counsel is a lawyer who serves as the chief legal professional in an organisation's legal department. These professionals usually manage teams of legal experts and support professionals. They often report to the chief executive officer (CEO). Some primary duties of a general counsel may include advising executives on how to proceed with legal matters and court cases, ensuring the company follows all legal regulations and guidelines that pertain to its operations, drafting legal responses for litigation, organising and securing all records of all legal documentation, communication with opposing counsel during court proceedings and filing for copyrights.

Related: What Is a Legal Advisor? (Definition, Skills and Career Steps)

10. Corporate counsel

National average salary: $142,727 per year

Primary duties: A corporate counsel is a lawyer who works solely to protect the legal interests of an organisation. They may work individually or as part of a team of lawyers and often report to the team's general counsel. Some primary duties of a corporate counsel may include performing legal research on current and past proceedings to determine a strategy for managing a case, reviewing and approving contracts for company management, managing collective bargaining agreements, ensuring the organisation adheres to all relevant government regulations and applying for patents and copyrights on the company's behalf.

Related: What Does a Chief Legal Officer Do? (Step-by-Step Guide)

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