Highest Paying Legal Jobs

Jan 09, 2018

Many legal professions pay salaries that are considerably higher than the median salary for all occupations. This article specifically looks at the legal professions that offer the highest median salaries.

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Career Options for the Highest-Paying Legal Careers

The U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that in 2016 the median annual income for all careers was $37,040. Many legal professions require extensive postsecondary training and typically pay salaries that are notably higher than the median for all occupations.

Job Title Median Salary (2016)* Job Outlook (2016-2026)*
Judges, Magistrate Judges and Magistrates $125,880 6%
Administrative Law Judges, Adjudicators, and Hearing Officers $92,110 4%
Lawyers $118,160 9%
Arbitrators, Mediators and Conciliators $59,770 11%
Judicial Law Clerks $51,760 6%
Court Reporters $51,320 3%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Information for the Highest-Paying Legal Careers

Judges, Magistrate Judges and Magistrates

In order to become a judge, magistrate or magistrate judge it is necessary to earn a law degree, pass the bar exam and have experience working as a lawyer. Judges, magistrate judges and magistrates are the legal professionals who oversee court cases to ensure that the rules of law are followed during trials and hearings. As of 2016 the BLS reported their median salary was $125,880 per year.

Administrative Law Judges, Adjudicators, and Hearing Officers

Administrative law judges, adjudicators and hearing officers took home a median annual salary of more than $92,000 in 2016, according to the BLS. They are required to have a law degree and need practical experience from working as an attorney to qualify for this career. They do not work for courts but are employed by different branches of government and determine when laws and violations have been broken. For example, they may determine whether or not a person has been fired without cause.


Lawyers are required to earn a law degree and have a law license. Their role is to provide legal advice to their clients. They may also prepare legal documents for them or argue their case in court. The BLS reported that they earned a median annual income of $118,160 in 2016, which makes this one of the highest-paid career options in the legal field.

Arbitrators, Mediators and Conciliators

Arbitrators, mediators and conciliators work with clients who have disputes to try to negotiate a settlement or provide a decision about how a dispute should be resolved. The median annual income for these professionals was $59,770 in 2016, according to the BLS. It is possible to pursue a career in this field with a bachelor's degree, although some arbitrators, mediators and conciliators have prior experience working as a lawyer or judge.

Judicial Law Clerks

Judicial law clerks are responsible for researching legal matters and performing a number of other tasks, such as writing documents or assessing legal rulings. The BLS reported that in 2016 their median annual income was $51,760. A law degree is required to be qualified for a role as a judicial law clerk.

Court Reporters

The BLS reported that court reporters took home a median salary of $51,320 per year in 2016. A postsecondary certificate or on-the-job training may be sufficient to qualify for a career as a court reporter, although a license or certification may also be required. Court reporters keep a record of everything said and done during court hearings. They also prepare court transcripts and may also translate legal proceedings for individuals who are deaf.

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