Factors that Affect Legal Salary Earnings

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By Sarah Stevenson

Whether you earn a competitive legal salary depends on a wide range of factors, so if you're choosing a career based on potential earnings, you'll want to do your research first. Knowing what the median salary is for different legal professions will give you a leg up in selecting not only a career, but also an appropriate legal degree program. You may also wonder where people work in the legal industry and which states employ the most paralegals and court reporters. The answers are below.

Legal Salary by Occupation

Because those in the legal profession might work in just about any setting, from government to business to private law firms, calculating average earnings is a complex endeavor. Pay can vary drastically depending on factors such as the size of the law firm you work for, your legal specialty, and whether you supplement your income with freelance work.

Below are median salaries for legal occupations.

Legal CareerMedian Annual Salary*
Judge $102,380
Lawyer $114,970
Mediator $57,180
Court Reporter $49,860
Paralegal or Legal Assistant $48,350

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2016-17 Occupational Outlook Handbook; Lawyers; Arbitrators, Mediators and Conciliators; Court Reporters; Paralegals and Legal Assistants; Judges and Hearing Officers.

Where Paralegals and Court Reporters Work

Paralegals who work in litigation or help lawyers with depositions sometimes work with court reporters. They both work in many of the same places (law offices, courtrooms), but keep reading if you'd like to learn who employs the most paralegals and court reporters.

Top Five Industries for Paralegals:

  • Legal Services
  • Local Government
  • Federal Executive Branch
  • State Government
  • Management of Companies and Enterprises

Top Five Industries for Court Reporters:

  • Local Government
  • State Government
  • Business Support Services
  • Motion Picture and Video Industries
  • Federal Executive Branch

Top States for Paralegals and Court Reporters

Where you live has a significant impact on your earnings. Legal salaries tend to be higher in locations with a higher a cost of living, so metropolitan areas like Washington, D.C.; San Jose, California; and even Portland, Oregon boast some of the highest legal salaries.

But money isn't everything, and we live where we do for many different reasons. Where do the greatest numbers of paralegals and court reporters live?

Top Five States for Paralegals:

  • California
  • Florida
  • New York
  • Texas
  • Illinois

Top Five States for Court Reporters:

  • Maryland
  • California
  • Texas
  • Florida
  • New York

Regardless of what your professional goals are or where you want to live, a competitive legal salary starts with a solid education from a respected degree or certificate program. Start your search for accredited online legal programs here.

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2016-17 Occupational Outlook Handbook, National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA)
*The salary information listed is based on a national average, unless noted. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors.