Law is an industry that is typically seen as high paid, and it does certainly have a lot of promise. Wages can start high, and will rise rapidly as a person gains experience, but it helps to graduate from one of the more prestigious law universities.
For example, a solicitor who graduates from Cambridge can expect to earn £54,000 when they get their first postgraduate job, and will then see their pay increase by around £25,000 for every five years of experience.
It is not uncommon for those who have more than 15 years of experience to earn £181,000 per year, and those are just averages.
Having a degree from one of the top law schools can add 25% to the base salaries, so those who graduated from Cambridge, Oxford, or Edinburgh University will be earning much more than those from other less prestigious universities.
The courses that those students have to do will cost a lot more, with post-graduate study at Cambridge costing over £14,000 for a nine month masters course.
Law Pays Well Everywhere
Law pays well all over the world. There is a similar picture in the United States, for example. The type of law being practiced matters a lot. The median annual salary for a lawyer in the US was $133,470 in 2014, but trial lawyers earn more than public interest lawyers, for example. This means that picking the right subfield can make a huge difference to earnings.
Intellectual Property law is a fast-growing field, and it is one of the most lucrative to work in. The median pay for an intellectual property lawyer is slightly above the average, with a 2016 survey showing that IP lawyers earn $143,000. Those who reach the upper echelons of the field, however, could earn as much as $270,000 per year.
Judges and members of congress enjoy earnings that are on the upper end of the scale for the average legal professional, with median salaries of $156,000 – $174,000.
Meanwhile, those who choose an academic leaning towards their work earn less. This applies in the UK too, with academic work being less well paid, although there are opportunities for long tenures which will at least provide a degree of stability that is not seen in some other professions.
Academic work can depend heavily on funding, however, and with the uncertainty about access to European funding now many people are feeling reservations about working within the academic fields when there are so many commercial opportunities out there.
If you really want to get rich, however, becoming a Chief Legal Officer is a good option.
The top CLO at tobacco giant Altria Group, Inc. Took home $6.5 million in cash compensation in 2017. CLOs don’t work directly for law firms, rather they head up teams at other corporations and reflect their interests. It is not uncommon for them to have seven figure incomes, and in addition to the base salary that they are awarded there is the opportunity for bonuses, stock options, and other compensation packages.