Lawyers are often portrayed to be rich males and females in suits debating and fighting in court. Unfortunately, the media’s portrayal of lawyers is only partly true. Only one thing is likely true – they make a lot of money. But how much do they make exactly? In this article, we’ll take a deeper look at the factors that influence a lawyer’s salary, as well as the real figures of how much lawyers make in Australia.
What Factors Influence a Lawyer’s Salary?
Naturally, a lawyer’s years of experience greatly dictates how much he or she earns. For instance, a criminal lawyer with only about one year of experience in the field has an average income of about $50,000 to $62,000. That is certainly not bad at all. However, a criminal lawyer with more than a decade of experience can earn anywhere from $100,000 to $150,000! That is simply how years of experience can influence how much a lawyer makes.
A lawyer’s position in a firm is also a significant factor. Lawyers employed in Australia’s biggest law firms are expected to command six-figure salaries. Meanwhile, those working for non-profit organizations may make significantly less than others. Moreover, the type of cases a lawyer handles also affects how much he or she makes. Is the lawyer representing a multi-million dollar company? Or is he or she representing an individual in court?
Lastly, there are different kinds of lawyers. Although it might seem like lawyers only go to courts and attend hearings, the profession is actually diverse and filled with opportunities. Criminal lawyers are the most commonly portrayed type of lawyer in the media. However, there are different types of lawyers; and what type of lawyer they also greatly influence how much they make.
What Are the Different Types of Lawyers?
You might not be aware of it but there are so many types of lawyers in Australia. Australian laws are complex and because of this, lawyers specialize in one area to provide their best counsel to individuals and companies.
Criminal lawyers are typically barristers who deal with individual persons and companies charged with criminal activity. Typically, these lawyers can defend the accused or specialise in prosecution. In Australia, the states primarily handle criminal law. Only a few crimes are being tried at a federal level.
Property lawyers deal with residential or commercial property laws. These lawyers are often referred to as real estate attorneys in other countries such as the United States.
Commercial or Corporate Lawyer
Commercial or corporate lawyers are experts in terms of commercial law. They provide legal counsel to businesses in various circumstances such as in mergers and acquisitions (M&A). Moreover, other lawyers who are involved in this practice also specialize in securities law.
Immigration lawyers help individuals, businesses, and companies work through the complex immigration laws of a state or country.
Personal Injury and Compensation Lawyer
Personal injury and compensation lawyers help injured individuals secure compensation for their losses. They provide legal counsel and advice for a variety of claims such as motor vehicle accident claims, workers’ compensation claims, insurance claims, etc.
Family lawyers provide legal counsel and assistance with regard to the family laws of the state. This involves child support, dispute resolutions, family violence interventions, divorce, etc.
How Much Exactly Do Lawyers Make?
Last July 2020, the Australian Taxation Office or ASO released their statistics report on the top 10 highest paying jobs in Australia. Judicial and other legal professionals ranked 7th, with an average yearly income of $184,958.
Unfortunately, there is still an income gap for lawyers based on gender. In the statistics report by the ASO for 2017-2018, male lawyers (solicitors) earned an average of $148,487. Meanwhile, female lawyers (solicitors) earned an average of $112,731. For lawyers (barristers), the gap is even more significant. Males had an average income of $190,454 while females’ income didn’t even reach half that of males at $70,227. However, female magistrates tend to earn higher at $277,129. Male magistrates’ average income is at $272,394.
For the financial year 2017-2018, New South Wales ranked the highest-earning state in Australia; with lawyers having an average yearly pay of $242,428. Next on the list is Victoria, with an average income of $196,816. This is followed by Western Australia at $167,090. Tasmania ranks the last at $85,030.
Meanwhile, if considering the type of lawyer, general-in-house lawyers earn the most with an average annual income of $128,988. The second highest-earning lawyer is constructions lawyers, earning an average of $124,041 per year. Next are corporate lawyers and commercial lawyers, earning $118,558. Tax lawyers come last, with an average annual income of $118,212.
If you’re wondering how much hiring a lawyer or solicitor costs per hour, it also depends on their field of expertise and years of experience. This may range from $200-800 per hour.
Why Do Lawyers Make a Lot of Money?
So, you get it. Lawyers make a ton of money. But what exactly enabled them to make these amounts of money? The most common reason is the amount of money that needs to be invested to become a lawyer. Becoming a lawyer, just like getting any graduate or doctorate degree, requires a lot of money. Typically, lawyers take out thousands of dollars’ worth of student loans.
Apart from that, the nature of lawyers’ work also affects how much they are paid. Lawyers typically work long hours and are always on call. Cases can take a long time to work on; this often drags on for months or even years. Lastly, lawyers spent years getting their degree and studying to get licensed. That, on top of their years of experience, also enables them to make a lot of money.
We can safely say that lawyers in Australia do make a lot of money in their careers. Their average annual salary ranges from $70,000 to $300,000.