Entering the field of law can be one of the most rewarding decisions a person can make. Fighting for justice, human rights, and for those who don’t have a voice is one of the most effective ways an occupation in law can help your local community and, on a broader scale, the entire world.
With a legal education under your belt, so many new opportunities come along with it. Law schools offer a wide array of degrees and concentrations specializing in every area of the field. It’s important to consider your options carefully and really see how each field coincides with your interests, passions, life goals, and schedule. Keep reading to find out more about each field of law to help discover what’s right for you!
Criminal law deals with behaviors that are defined as illegal under the criminal code, involving an arrest and criminal investigation. As a criminal lawyer, you’ll be defending the basic rights that are imperative to uphold a fair and just society.
After choosing this path, there are a couple of different directions you can go. Criminal defense lawyers stand for clients who are accused of crimes, whereas prosecutors and district attorneys represent the state while prosecuting those accused of crimes.
While the average salary of public defenders can be right around $52,000, those who practice criminal law at a large firm can earn up to $115,000 in their first year alone.
Civil Rights Law
The goal of civil rights law is to bring balance to governmental power and individual liberties. Lawyers in this field may face cases that pertain to discrimination and unfair practices infringing on rights within the workplace, education, or housing. It isn’t uncommon to see lawyers who work in other fields to take on civil rights cases on the side, often on a pro bono basis. Nonprofit organizations and public interest law firms are typically where civil rights attorneys will be found.
Handling civil rights cases may mean earning less money as a natural trade-off. The average starting salary is around $45,000 a year, but, with more experience, it can grow to be as high as $200,000. State government lawyers may make around $82,000 a year, while lawyers employed by federal government agencies can make closer to $130,000.
Health law focuses primarily on legislation that impacts members of the healthcare industry, such as clinics, hospitals, insurance companies, and individual health practitioners, as well as their patients. Specialists in health law are well versed in Medicare policy and compliance, public health policy, biomedicine and telemedicine, mergers and acquisitions, risk management, bioethics, and clinical ethics. They may work in academic institutions or pharmaceutical companies. The federal government may also employ them to oversee the creation and enforcement of healthcare policies.
Those who practice health law can earn an annual salary of $151,000 or higher if he or she is working with a specialty hospital.
Tax law is an incredibly dynamic area of the industry and is essentially always changing. This field of law focuses on policies set in place by the federal Internal Revenue Code and deals with both domestic and international transactions. Because of the constant changes in regulation policy, this is one of the more complex fields of law. Those who practice tax law may focus on income taxes, capital gains taxes, and tax evasion.
Starting salaries for tax lawyers can be between $55,000 and $83,000 with steady increases as years pass and one gains the required experience. In 2014, the median salary for a tax attorney was $99,690.
There are typically many moving parts when it comes to running a corporation. Business affairs need to be conducted in a way that is fair and consistent with the law; corporate law focuses on contracts, intellectual property, legislative compliance, and matters of liability. Things like acquisitions, mergers and internal reorganization are typically taken care of by corporate lawyers. In many cases, large companies will hire one legal professional—referred to as In-House Counsel, Staff Attorney, or Chief Legal Officer—to handle all of their needs.
On average, the salary of a corporate lawyer is around $100,000, though that can differ largely depending on how much experience he or she has and whether he or she works for a large law firm or serves as in-house counsel.
Family law deals primarily with anything involving children, domestic abuse, and divorce. Typically these law firms are on the smaller side and aim to provide specialized help to those who need it. Child welfare, adoption, civil unions, and prenuptial agreements are all areas covered by family law.
Because family law is such a broad field, compensation will depend largely on which area a family attorney specializes in. The average annual salary is around $71,000, but may increase depending on the area of specialty.
Media or entertainment law overlaps somewhat with intellectual property law. It focuses on rights and royalties in music, television, and cinema. This field of law shifts often due to constant developments in social media. Employment law, intellectual property law and disputes over royalties are primary areas of practice.
Entertainment lawyers can earn an average of $91,000 a year.
Growth in Law
Law is an incredibly dynamic career path with ample opportunity for growth. In the last decade, the number of lawyers in the US increased by over 15%. The field of law is incredibly competitive, however, as there are expected to be more students graduating with law degrees than there are jobs available. Despite that, employment of lawyers is expected to grow 8% by 2026.
The number of women practicing law also continues to increase. Currently, 64% of all actively practicing lawyers are men, and 36% are women—a four-percentage-point shift from 10 years ago toward balancing the scales.
*Salary approximations in this article are based on information provided on https://crushthelsatexam.com/lawyer-salary/ and https://www.ziprecruiter.com/Salaries/Entertainment-Attorney-Salary.
About the Author
Joel Mann earned his J.D. in 2002 and spent several years working in the Clark County District Attorney’s Office before joining a criminal defense firm. He opened his own criminal defense firm, the Law Office of Joel M. Mann, in 2006.