Top Paying Lawyer Careers of 2020

The law industry is as broad as it’s diverse, as are the earnings associated with each specialist field.

 (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
The law industry is as broad as it’s diverse, as are the earnings associated with each specialist field. For example, lawyers who work for the state or government earn far less than those working in the private sector.

According to LawTally, there are many specialized legal fields, from criminal to birth injury law. What do these specialists earn? Do you know which ones earn the most? Let’s look at the top-paying lawyer careers of 2020.

Tax Lawyers - $83,000

These lawyers don’t have an easy job, especially since most people don’t particularly enjoy doing their taxes. In fact, tax law is considered the most formidable legal field to pursue. These experts represent companies, organizations, or individuals that are dealing with tax agencies.

Most give advice on a day to day basis with regards to all aspects of tax legislation. If you’re thinking of practicing this type of law, you’ll need excellent math and accounting skills, and an analytical mind.

The starting salaries for tax lawyers tend to be between $55,000 and $83,000. Those that remain in the field for an extended period can expect a stable increase in their earnings as their careers progress.

Real Estate Lawyers - $90,125

“No one knows more about property law than real estate lawyers. These legal experts help their clients with commercial, residential, or industrial real estate cases,” says Isaac Zisckind, Partner at Diamond & Diamond Lawyers. Mr. Zisckind adds, “That includes any issues regarding neighbors, tenants, zoning, and property development, all of which fall under this legal umbrella.”

On top of all that, real estate lawyers also have to deal with residential and commercial real estate closings, refinancing, and mortgage closings. There are usually several complex documents involved, which they spend most of their time drafting and reviewing. Attention to detail and strong analytical skills are an absolute necessity if you want to do well.

Real estate lawyers can expect a starting salary of approximately $90,125 annually. It’s worth mentioning that skilled contract negotiators tend to be higher earners. Location and experience can also significantly impact earning potential.

Criminal Lawyers - $115,000

Folks don’t like lawyers at the best of times, but criminal defenders are some of the most hated legal industry professionals. It’s their job to defend individuals, organizations, and companies facing criminal charges in appellate, state, or federal court. It’s also a career many pursue later in life, despite their previous jobs or experience.

Excellent investigative skills are a must. These specialists need to examine the case at hand, plan a strategy, study the case and procedural laws, interview witnesses, and construct a solid defense – regardless of their client’s guilt or innocence. For that reason, these lawyers need to separate themselves from any case and avoid getting emotionally invested.

A public defender’s salary of $51,810 is well below the industry average. Lawyers who practice criminal law at large firms can earn up to $115,000 in their first year, making it a much more lucrative career option.

Patent Lawyers - $137,802

A patent lawyer needs to assess and analyze whether an invention is unique enough to be eligible for a patent. They’re guides and advisors to private inventors, as well as corporations looking to secure their creations. When it’s obtained, it’s the lawyers’ responsibility to protect against any infringement.

A patent lawyer’s salary depends on several factors, including the size of the company they work for, the number of years worked in the field, and their education level. According to, the average base salary for these professionals is around $137,802 per year. That puts them solidly in the second position on our list.

Corporate Lawyers - $180,000


A corporate lawyer’s primary role is ensuring that company transactions are legal. They advise corporations on a variety of issues. These include analyzing and gathering evidence in case of legal action, formulating contracts, and providing advice on corporate taxation matters.

With such intensive responsibilities and comprehensive skill set requirements, corporate lawyers need to specialize in many different aspects of the law. With an average starting salary of $160,000 - $180,000 per annum, it’s no wonder that corporate lawyers are the top dogs when it comes to legal careers.

Final Word

Choosing to study a career in law is both noble and lucrative – for most. If it’s a field you’d like to pursue, you’ll have to start by preparing for law school, the LSATS, and, if you make it that far, the BAR exam.

It’s an incredibly difficult field to succeed in, but it can also be gratifying. It requires a lot of time and hard work to become a highly paid lawyer, especially in the fields we’ve listed above. However, as with any high paying career, your skills, dedication, and experience can influence how much you earn.

Whether you decide to become a tax lawyer or defend the innocent – and the guilty – in court, you’ll eventually be able to walk away with a hefty sum in your bank account.