A law degree might not be quite the golden ticket it used to be, but for the average lawyer in most states, it’s still a six-figure profession.
By state, average yearly wages for lawyers range from $75,730 to $161,050 including the District of Colombia, according to the Business Journals' On Numbers analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
While lawyers by and large are still bringing in the big bucks, the gap between those making the most and those making the least is widening. Last year, the hourly rate for the top 25 percent highest-paid lawyers increased 4.9 percent, while the bottom 25 percent of lawyers saw their rate increase by only 1.3 percent, according to the Wall Street Journal, citing a report from TyMetrix and the Corporate Executive Board.
Increased competition in recent years may explain the widening of the gap. Currently, there is a lawyer for every 247 Americans compared to a ratio of just 1 to 709 Americans in 1950, according to Bloomberg. As a result, those fortunate enough to land positions at big, prestigious firms have hourly rates approaching $900, while the lowest-paid lawyers struggle to keep up with inflation by charging about $200 per hour.
But the widening pay gap could have the greatest impact on recent law school grads who are now struggling to find meaningful law work, and are often limited to simple clerical tasks. As a result, many are abandoning their law ambitions altogether. Others are attempting to fight back against those who promised law school would be their ticket to a big pay check. They've been unsuccessful so far. A lawsuit brought by nine recent law grads against their alma mater claiming it misrepresented post-grad employment opportunites was recently thrown out.
Here are the states with the highest average pay for lawyers: