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The truth about lawyer LLM salaries

Katie Schenk - October 28, 2019

International lawyer LLM salaries

“How much does a lawyer make”? The answer to this question attracts a lot of people to this profession. The lure of high pay cheques tempts many to step into this field. But, are LLM lawyer salaries everything they’re reputed to be?

Yes.

And no.

It all depends on the type of work you do, your level of education, and the area where you live.

How much do LLM lawyers earn?

Lawyer salaries range dramatically.

In the United Kingdom, a trainee solicitor could expect to earn between £25,000 and £40,000 annually. And that’s just for training. A lawyer’s average salary in the UK lies in direct proportion to experience and education.

Qualified solicitors will start in the same pay range, though larger, commercial firms in the city may offer lawyer salaries closer to £80,000. 

Barristers with a few years of experience under their belt are more likely to earn in the double digits, but there is an incredible range between £50,000 on the low-end and £200,000 on the higher end of the scale.

A quick look at the average salary of solicitors in the UK

Starting salary for solicitors in small firms

£25,000 - 40,000

Starting salary for solicitors in city firms

£58,000 - 65,000

Starting salary for solicitors in large firms

£80,000 +

Senior, non-partner salary for solicitors

£60,000 - 90,000

Senior partner salary for solicitors

£80,000 - 100,000

The American legal system doesn’t work with the same divisions; the terms solicitor and barrister don’t equate in the United States. But, the salaries are still impressive – even with an undergraduate legal degree.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, lawyers earn a median salary of $120,910 annually – and keep in mind, that's the median, plenty of lawyers bring in more.

Plus, no matter where you are in the world, the higher your level of legal education, the higher any lawyer salary will be.

Will an LLM or other law masters degree really pay?

The short answer is yes

  • With an LLM degree (LLM stands for Latin Legum Magister, meaning Master of Laws) in the United States, you can expect to see a starting salary of $66,964... if you work for the government.
  • If you head into corporate law, the annual average lawyer salary is closer to $163,510 (that’s across all levels of work experience).

Planning to accept a job with a private firm?

You can expect to bring home the equivalent of a second-year associate as a first-year associate... as long as you have an LLM degree. You might also be interested to know that second-year associates earn a median of $130,000.

And, if the Big Apple calls your name, you can expect a healthy lawyer salary. The average pay of a lawyer in New York City is currently $99,814, with some firms offering average salaries above $200,000. 

And, that's only 18% more than the national average. In Washington DC, salaries are 38% higher than the national average lawyer salary.

LLM lawyer salaries in the UK and the US are considerable. It’s little wonder that LLM degrees are on the rise. It’s worth studying an LLM because of the substantial salary increase you can expect. The LLM course duration is two years, and the trade-off between time invested and salary increase is generally considered favourable for most candidates.

A quick look at US attorney salaries

Average early career salary (1-5 years)

$71,000

Average mid-career salary (5-10 years)

$95,000

Average experienced lawyer salary (10-20 years)

$111,000

Average late-career salary (20+ years)

$127,000

More reasons to consider an LLM degree

LLM degrees allow lawyers to specialise. It's an opportunity to change direction as well as narrow your focus. 

International masters students in the US can sit for American state bar examinations upon receipt of the LLM degree. It could mean a change of country – or just a new level of clientele when you return home. 

If you can get into Harvard Law School, for example, you’ll be sitting with an alma mater that provides enormous cred anywhere in the world. And, that’s before mentioning the unbelievable network of colleagues and professors you’ll be able to call on when you have a complicated question.

If a judgeship is in your future, the varied understanding obtained during international masters study can be priceless – whether you plan to spend more time arguing in courtrooms or not.

And, of course, there is always the fact that masters degrees make it easier to rise through the ranks and add money to your paycheck. A lawyer’s salary after LLM is considerably higher.

Are you interested in pursuing your Masters of Law degree? 

Why not start the search for a university by seeing which schools accept Prodigy financing from qualified international students? Then see how much you'll qualify for by applying for a loan.

Prodigy Finance Ltd is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. 

Post updated for accuracy and freshness on October 28, 2019. Originally published on January 16, 2017.


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