Law Career Outlook (With Employment Prospects and Salaries)

Updated July 23, 2023

If you're interested in becoming a lawyer, you might wonder what the profession's employment outlook is. Understanding your job prospects can help you determine if it's the right career for you and plan to apply at the appropriate organizations.

In this article, we discuss the law career outlook, look at some high-demand settings and specialties and review the profession's average salary per state and the work environment.

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What is the current law career outlook?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts the overall employment of lawyers to increase by 10% from 2021 to 2031. This rate is faster than the average for all occupations and translates to an average of 48,700 openings for lawyers each year over the next decade. The demand is largely due to the need to replace lawyers that transfer to different occupations or exit the workforce.

The BLS also predicts the overall employment in all legal occupations to grow by 10% from 2021 to 2031. The field may experience about 110,000 openings each year because of growth and replacement needs. Legal occupations encompass jobs that involve the interpretation of the law and the support of law-related activities. Examples of legal occupations include arbitrators, court reporters, judges and paralegals.

High-demand settings for lawyers

Here's an overview of the high-demand settings for lawyers to help you find a role that suits your skills:

Law firms

The BLS reports that law firms are among the most prominent employers of lawyers. Recent graduates often find jobs as associates, which are entry-level attorneys. As they gain experience, they can pursue more advanced roles such as a senior associate or partner. The retirement of long-term lawyers and evolving client bases may affect the job openings available within law firms.

Related: Working at a Law Firm: Pros and Cons, Environment and Types of Law

In-house legal departments

While some corporations outsource their legal needs, others create in-house legal departments to reduce costs and streamline legal processes. This career path may allow you to focus on specific projects and contribute to an organization's long-term success rather than managing multiple clients at once. Organizations that often hire in-house lawyers include:

  • Financial and insurance companies

  • Consulting firms

  • Health care facilities

Related: How To Find In-House Counsel Jobs in 6 Steps (Plus Tips)

Government agencies

Many government agencies hire lawyers to help them implement legal policies, manage individual cases or advocate for specific legislation. Lawyers in this field often work in court systems, where they serve as prosecutors or public defense attorneys for a local jurisdiction or a state or federal government. These attorneys oversee civil and criminal cases on behalf of the government.

Related: How To Find Government Jobs in 6 Steps (Plus Job Types)

Independent practices

Lawyers who want to work for themselves may establish independent practices. You might use your specialized skills in health care or family law to deliver in-demand legal services to certain areas. Opening an independent practice requires not only legal expertise but also skills related to finance, entrepreneurship and marketing.

High-demand legal specialties

Lawyers can further improve their job prospects by pursuing one of these high-demand legal specialties:

  • Real estate law

  • Family law

  • Immigration and naturalization law

  • Litigation

  • Commercial law

  • Intellectual property law

  • Compliance

  • Contract management

  • Labor law

Average salary for lawyers

The national average salary for lawyers is $95,950 per year, but the amount you earn can vary based on factors like education, experience, specialty and work environment. Lawyers also earn different amounts based on their geographic location, so consider these average salaries by state:

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  • Alabama: $95,397 per year

  • Alaska: $52,435 per year

  • Arizona: $76,180 per year

  • Arkansas: $57,966 per year

  • California: $113,698 per year

  • Colorado: $106,476 per year

  • Connecticut: $70,039 per year

  • Delaware: $85,594 per year

  • District of Columbia: $107,428 per year

  • Florida: $101,942 per year

  • Georgia: $94,670 per year

  • Hawaii: $50,746 per year

  • Idaho: $87,857 per year

  • Illinois: $66,711 per year

  • Indiana: $97,691 per year

  • Iowa: $32,874 per year

  • Kansas: $69,528 per year

  • Kentucky: $84,184 per year

  • Louisiana: $81,910 per year

  • Maine: $117,565 per year

  • Maryland: $71,469 per year

  • Massachusetts: $108,947 per year

  • Michigan: $55,282 per year

  • Minnesota: $86,692 per year

  • Mississippi: $58,499 per year

  • Missouri: $77,464 per year

  • Montana: $98,916 per year

  • Nebraska: $96,212 per year

  • Nevada: $104,331 per year

  • New Hampshire: $50,488 per year

  • New Jersey: $77,267 per year

  • New Mexico: $77,297 per year

  • New York: $119,962 per year

  • North Carolina: $70,904 per year

  • North Dakota: $50,015 per year

  • Ohio: $82,041 per year

  • Oklahoma: $35,374 per year

  • Oregon: $191,978 per year

  • Pennsylvania: $92,845 per year

  • Rhode Island: $69,968 per year

  • South Carolina: $93,892 per year

  • South Dakota: $48,179 per year

  • Tennessee: $91,265 per year

  • Texas: $106,526 per year

  • Utah: $234,085 per year

  • Vermont: $49,339 per year

  • Virginia: $68,916 per year

  • Washington: $96,210 per year

  • West Virginia: $132,545 per year

  • Wisconsin: $58,863 per year

  • Wyoming: $91,166 per year

Related: 11 of the Highest-Paying Lawyer Roles (With Salary Info)

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Work environment for lawyers

A lawyer typically holds a full-time position and may work more than 40 hours per week to conduct research, review documents and prepare for legal cases. Lawyers typically perform their duties in offices, though some travel to attend meetings with clients in their homes or at hospitals or prisons. A law career typically requires interaction with clients, judges and other lawyers and may put individuals in high-stress situations.

Related: A Day in the Life of a Lawyer: Daily Tasks and Duties

Frequently asked questions

Is it worth it to become a lawyer?

Deciding whether becoming a lawyer is worth it for you depends on your personal and professional goals. The process is lengthy and may involve a significant investment, but many lawyers earn salaries that allow them to pay back loans and live according to their preferred lifestyles. Lawyers also appreciate the chance to support clients in legal matters and apply skills like communication, research and analytical thinking.

Related: Top 11 Pros and Cons of Being a Lawyer

What's the required education for a lawyer?

Individuals pursuing a career as a lawyer typically spend at least seven years gaining the required education for the role. They start by earning a bachelor's degree in any field, but many pursue majors like history, business, political science or economics. These degree fields can provide you with a foundational education that can help you prepare for law school. You can also gain experience by completing internships as you pursue your undergraduate degree.

After you receive your bachelor's, you can apply to a law school program. These programs take about three years to complete and result in a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree. A J.D. signifies that you completed law school, but it doesn't allow you to practice law. You can become a practicing lawyer by passing the bar exam in your state and applying for jobs at law firms or corporations.

Related: FAQ: What Degree Does a Lawyer Need? (Definition and Types)

What are some related careers to consider?

If you're interested in law but unsure of whether becoming a lawyer is right for you, consider these related careers in the legal field:

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