Lawyers advise and represent individuals, businesses, and government agencies on legal issues and disputes. In law firms, Lawyers, sometimes called associates, perform legal work for individuals or businesses. Those who represent and defend the accused may be called criminal law attorneys or defense attorneys.

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Lawyers advise and represent individuals, businesses, and government agencies on legal issues and disputes. In law firms, Lawyers, sometimes called associates, perform legal work for individuals or businesses. Those who represent and defend the accused may be called criminal law attorneys or defense attorneys.

Recruiter & Staffing Needs


Subscribe to our Newsletter to receive the latest news for your industry.

Job Prospects


Despite the projected growth in new jobs for lawyers, competition for jobs should continue to be strong because more students are graduating from law school each year than there are jobs available. According to the American Bar Association’s National Lawyer Population Survey, a compilation of data collected by state bar associations or licensing agencies, there were over 1.3 million resident and active attorneys as of December 2016.

Some law school graduates who have been unable to find permanent positions turn to temporary staffing firms that place attorneys in short-term jobs. These firms allow companies to hire lawyers as needed and permit beginning lawyers to develop practical experience. Many other law school graduates and licensed lawyers end up finding work in other occupations or industries due to the difficulty in finding jobs with traditional legal employers.

Employment projections data for lawyers, 2016-26


Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2016 Projected Employment, 2026 Change, 2016-26 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric
Lawyers 23-1011 792,500 857,500 8 65,000 xlsx

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Employment projections data for lawyers, 2016-26


Occupational Title
Lawyers
SOC Code
23-1011
Employment, 2016
792,500
Projected Employment, 2026
857,500
CHANGE, 2016-26
PERCENT
8
NUMERIC
65,000
EMPLOYMENT BY INDUSTRY
xlsx

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Pay


The median annual wage for lawyers was $119,250 in May 2017. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $57,430, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $208,000.

In May 2017, the median annual wages for lawyers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:


Federal Government $141,900
Legal Services $120,280
Local Government, Excluding Education and Hospitals $93,020
State Government, Excluding Education and Hospitals $85,260

Lawyers who own their own practices usually earn less than those who work in law firms or other business establishments. Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey wage data only includes lawyers working in business establishments. The majority of lawyers worked full time in 2016, and many worked more than 40 hours per week. Lawyers who are in private practice and those who work in large firms often work additional hours, conducting research and preparing and reviewing documents.

Lawyers


Median annual wages, May 2017


Note: All Occupations includes all occupations in the U.S. Economy.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics

Job Outlook


Employment of lawyers is projected to grow 8 percent from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Demand for legal work is expected to continue as individuals, businesses, and all levels of government require legal services in many areas.

Despite this need for legal services, more price competition over the next decade may lead law firms to rethink their project staffing in order to reduce costs to clients. Clients are expected to cut back on legal expenses by demanding less expensive rates and scrutinizing invoices. Work that was previously assigned to lawyers, such as document review, may now be given to paralegals and legal assistants. Also, some routine legal work may be outsourced to other, lower cost legal providers located overseas.

Although law firms will continue to be among the largest employers of lawyers, many large corporations are increasing their in-house legal departments in order to cut costs. For many companies, the high cost of hiring outside counsel lawyers and their support staffs makes it more economical to shift work to their in-house legal department. This shift will lead to an increase in the demand for lawyers in a variety of settings, such as financial and insurance firms, consulting firms, and healthcare providers.

The federal government is likely to continue to need lawyers to prosecute or defend civil cases on behalf of the United States, prosecute criminal cases brought by the federal government, and collect money owed to the federal government. However, budgetary constraints at all levels of government, especially the federal level, will likely moderate employment growth.

Lawyers


Percent change in employment, projected 2016-26


Note: All Occupations includes all occupations in the U.S. Economy.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics

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Similar Occupations


  Occupational Title Job duties Entry-Level education 2017 Median pay
Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators facilitate negotiation and dialogue between disputing parties to help resolve conflicts outside of the court system. Bachelor's Degree $60,670
Judges and Hearing Officers Judges and hearing officers apply the law by overseeing the legal process in courts. They also conduct pretrial hearings, resolve administrative disputes, facilitate negotiations between opposing parties, and issue legal decisions. Doctoral or Professional Degree $115,520
Paralegals and Legal Assistants Paralegals and legal assistants perform a variety of tasks to support lawyers, including maintaining and organizing files, conducting legal research, and drafting documents. Associate's Degree $50,410
Postsecondary Teachers Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a wide variety of academic and technical subjects beyond the high school level. They may also conduct research and publish scholarly papers and books. See How to Become One $76,000
OCCUPATIONAL TITLE
Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators
JOB DUTIES
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ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION
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2017 MEDIAN PAY
$60,670
OCCUPATIONAL TITLE
Judges and Hearing Officers
JOB DUTIES
Judges and hearing officers apply the law by overseeing the legal process in courts. They also conduct pretrial hearings, resolve administrative disputes, facilitate negotiations between opposing parties, and issue legal decisions.
ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION
Doctoral or Professional Degree
2017 MEDIAN PAY
$115,520
OCCUPATIONAL TITLE
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
JOB DUTIES
Paralegals and legal assistants perform a variety of tasks to support lawyers, including maintaining and organizing files, conducting legal research, and drafting documents.
ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION
Associate's Degree
2017 MEDIAN PAY
$50,410
OCCUPATIONAL TITLE
Postsecondary Teachers
JOB DUTIES
Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a wide variety of academic and technical subjects beyond the high school level. They may also conduct research and publish scholarly papers and books.
ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION
See How to Become One
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Professional Recruiter and Staffing Organizations


  • National Association of Personnel Services
  • Association of Talent Acquisition Professionals
  • American Association of International Healthcare Recruitment
  • National Association of Executive Recruiters
  • National Association for Health Care Recruitment
  • Recruitment Process Outsourcing Association
  • American Staffing Association
  • Top Echelon Recruiting Network

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