How to Make $1M as a Lawyer in 2024

Article by Meo Antolin Meo Antolin

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How Much Do Top Lawyers Make?

According to ALM Global’s 2023 Global 100 Ranked by Profits Per Equity Partner, Kirkland & Ellis LLP (the highest-paid lawyers in the United States) pays their equity partners a whopping $7.52 million per year. 

Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP barely cracked the $1 million PPEP mark with $1,007,000 per partner — but it’s worth noting that they rank 84th out of 100 firms that make the most money in the world.

Where Do Lawyers Make the Most Money?

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the top-paying states for lawyers are:

  • District of Columbia — $226,510 annual mean wage
  • California — $201,530 annual mean wage
  • Massachusetts — $196,230 annual mean wage
  • New York — $188,900 annual mean wage 
  • Connecticut — $174,520 annual mean wage

Moving over to metropolitan areas, lawyers get the highest average salary in these major cities and locations:

  • San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California — $267,840 annual mean wage
  • San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, California — $239,330 annual mean wage
  • Washington Metropolitan Area — $211,850 annual mean wage
  • Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Connecticut — $209,770 annual mean wage
  • Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, California — $207,970 annual mean wage

Can Lawyers Make $1M or More Per Year?

Yes, as shown by the top-earning professionals in the legal field, it’s possible to make over $1 million annually. However, you need to explore other ways to generate profits. 

While a lawyer’s income is anything but small, your salary alone — especially if you’re a non-partner — won’t be enough to hit your target. 

Going the partner track or starting your own firm will definitely put you on the right track. But you still need other sources of income to supplement your earnings, such as:

  • Creating and publishing your own legal online course
  • Writing and publishing a book
  • Becoming a content creator on social media or video-sharing platforms
  • Starting a legal blog

Whether you like it or not, the ceiling of your lawyer salary also has something to do with your practice area. 

Which Type of Lawyers Make The Most Money?

Fresh 2024 data from PayScale reveal that the average annual salary for all lawyers in the U.S. sits at $96,680. However, lawyers working in certain legal practice areas exceed this figure, from real estate attorneys to intellectual property lawyers. 

Check out this quick rundown of the highest-paid types of lawyers in the industry:

  • Patent Attorneys — $150,988
  • Intellectual Property (IP) Lawyers — $149,349
  • Corporate Lawyers — $117,922
  • Trial Attorneys — $108,964
  • Tax Attorneys — $108,625
  • Real Estate Lawyers — $96,998

Take note that the lawyer salaries listed above are aggregated regardless of location. The high salaries in the top-paying states are outliers, meaning they don’t reflect the actual average income of lawyers across the U.S. 

It’s also worth noting that the level of seniority also has a major impact on a lawyer’s salary. For example, while trial lawyers make an average of $108,964, a senior trial lawyer makes $128,032. 

Other types of lawyers can also exceed the average lawyer salary in the industry, especially if they work in high-paying states. This includes bankruptcy lawyers, family lawyers, immigration lawyers, medical lawyers, and personal injury attorneys. 

How to Make More Money as a Lawyer

Plenty of lawyers, particularly newly licensed attorneys facing student debt, search far and wide for ways to make more money in their field. Some recommend taking on side hustles like freelancing and tutoring, but these gigs take time away from actual legal work (which pays more). 

In other words, putting in the time to bring in more clients is far more profitable than exploring side hustles — unless they generate passive income. 

If you want to make more money on top of your lawyer salary, you need sources of income that generate profits passively. Content creation opportunities come to mind, like publishing a book, selling online courses, legal blogging, or social media marketing.

Lawyers like Chrissie Wolfe, for example, generate passive income in the form of ad revenue on platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok. 

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Whether you’re interested in the partner track, content creation, or both, here are five keys to success that you should remember:

1. Establish Your Thought Leadership

It doesn’t matter if you’re a personal injury lawyer or patent attorney. Attaining thought leadership will open a lot of doors for you when it comes to making money. 

First things first, all successful lawyer thought leaders excel in the legal profession. That’s why committing to becoming a genuine expert in your practice area should be first on your checklist. 

Next, you need to let people know about your expertise. This is where holistic law firm marketing comes into play.  

Some strategies here are:

  • Writing a book that discusses your own ideas and experiences
  • Hosting your own legal webinar or workshop
  • Volunteering in local charities and community events
  • Sharing original insights and opinions on important legal issues
  • Speaking at conferences and other events through bar associations or the Free Speaker Bureau
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Just remember that pursuing thought leadership is a marathon. It will take time, effort, and a lot of resources to build your reputation as someone worth following. 

Hiring a PR or full-service digital marketing company lets you focus on client work while they grow your law firm’s online brand. Be sure to choose a team with a history of successfully working with brands that practice law.  

2. Get More Positive Testimonials and Manage Your Reputation

Another important step to attaining thought leadership is implementing local SEO.

In simple terms, local SEO refers to strategies that boost your law firm’s visibility to local search engine users. This includes building out your Google Business Profile, enabling you to share important business information, customer testimonials, and ratings on search results. 

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After setting up your Google Business Profile, the next step is to get those positive reviews coming. 

Below are the top tactics to generate more positive testimonials to boost your online reputation:

  • Automate a review request email to your subscribers
  • Reach out directly to happy clients and request a review
  • Incentivize client reviews with cash rewards or gift cards
  • Publish a feedback form on your website
  • Share your Google Business Profile review link on social media

Take note that you should also get your law firm listed in local business directories. This further extends your online visibility, gain more clients, and generate reviews from a wider audience. Some examples are Bing Places for Business, Avvo, FindLaw, LegalZoom, and Nolo.

Getting positive reviews is a small part of law firm reputation management. You also need to manage and showcase them effectively. Make sure to respond to them regardless if they’re negative or positive — and use creative ways to highlight positive reviews on your law firm website.

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Here are a few other law firm reputation management tactics you should remember:

  • Cross-promote across your social media pages
  • Use social media listening tools like Hootsuite to monitor and respond to mentions
  • Participate in online forums and communities

3. Focus on Business Development

You don’t need to run your own law firm to understand that managing a legal career is like running a business. As a lawyer, you’re in charge of your own reputation, marketing, client relationship management, and business development. 

Unlike law firm marketing, business development goes beyond reaching an audience and promoting your services. It also involves strategies for forging business relationships, improving your legal services from within, and tapping into new revenue streams. 

Law firm business development starts with S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound) goals. Since you’re reading this post, your goals should relate to attaining thought leadership, relationship building, and making more money. And following the S.M.A.R.T. principle, these goals become: 

  • Speak at 10 different legal and non-legal events in six months
  • Create 100 different referral partners in a year
  • Increase law firm earnings by 500% in 18 months

These events may seem ambitious, but they’re specific, relevant, and time-bound. Most importantly, you can measure them based on trackable metrics — allowing you to adjust, optimize, or completely overhaul your tactics over time. 

Read our guide on how to grow your legal business for more information on setting and achieving your S.M.A.R.T. goals. 

4. Build a Million-Dollar Digital Marketing Engine

A well-oiled digital marketing machine can take your legal career from its embryonic stage to the multi-million business you’ve always envisioned. But you can’t expect big results from half-hearted efforts. 

In a landscape as competitive as the legal industry, you need to exhaust every digital marketing opportunity you can get. Build an attorney marketing plan that covers (and excels in) all your bases, including but not limited to:

  • Your lawyer website — Create an official, professionally-designed website to establish your online authority. Your first priority should be to craft the essential pages, like your “About” page, contact page, and landing pages for your specific practice areas.
  • Search Engine Optimization — Effective SEO allows you to generate law firm leads over time from search engines. The top SEO strategies for law firms include publishing high-quality content, submitting guest posts to authoritative sites, and optimizing pages for keywords as well as user experience. 
  • Advertising — Promoting your legal services via paid advertising could lead to a short-term spike in website visitors and leads. Leverage Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising networks for law firms like Google Ads for everything you need to launch a profitable ad campaign. 
  • Social Media Marketing — Social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram lets you form more direct and personal connections with the online community. These platforms also have built-in business tools to help grow your social media presence, including paid ads, groups, and analytics. 

5. Hire Experts to Handle Non-Billable Work

Digital marketing, reputation management, and content creation — these aspects of legal business management require full-time attention to generate measurable results. The problem is, most legal service providers, including big law firms and solo attorneys, already spend too much time on non-billable work.

According to the 2023 Clio Legal Trends Report, lawyers now have a utilization rate of 37% during an eight-hour workday. While this marks a noticeable improvement over last year’s 34%, that still means that attorneys only put 2.7 hours each day into billable client work. 

In other words, piling more responsibilities into their day-to-day could be detrimental to your law firm’s overall profitability. The more practical approach is to let proven, more efficient experts handle tasks that don’t show in your client’s bills. This includes content creation, website design, social media management, and customer relationship management. 

The good news is, you don’t need to look far to find the perfect team for your needs. Hire us if you want to create a recurring lead engine via digital marketing and hit your revenue goals.

Article by Meo Antolin

Freelance writer since 2014. I produce digital marketing content of all lengths and depths. I run A Million Words Later, which I built to help aspiring freelance writers get the knowledge, inspiration, and resources they need to succeed.