How Much Do Family Law Attorneys Make?

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If you’re an attorney – or someone considering a career in the law – trying to decide which practice area to focus on may spark curiosity about how much money attorneys make in different specialties. Family law is definitely one of the most in demand practice areas. A career in family law can be very meaningful if you want to make a difference in the lives of your clients.

Family law attorneys play a vital role in protecting the interests of their clients. While you may be curious to know how much do family law attorneys make note that the actual average salary could never match the value of the service. However, there has to be a baseline, and compensation data will give you a fair assessment of a national average earnings when taking into consideration years of experience, job title, certifications and several other factors.

As a family lawyer, you can expect to represent clients in family court, draft legal documents, prepare for trials, and manage high-asset cases. In addition to legal knowledge, family law matters can extend beyond what you learned in law school. You need to be good at problem-solving and have a strong understanding of human behavior.

In terms of base salary, family lawyers typically earn a salary that is commensurate with their years of experience and expertise. However, in this article, we will discuss the average salary ranges for family law attorneys to help give you a better idea of what percentile of compensation you can expect should you select to go into this rewarding field.

What are the Most Common Jobs for Family Lawyers?

Family law is a broad area of the legal field that covers a wide range of issues related to family life. Common areas of focus for family lawyers include child custody and support, prenuptial agreements, and divorce. In some instances, family lawyers may also have to work with victims of domestic violence to get them the help and protection they need. Additionally, many family lawyers also handle adoptions, guardianship, and parental rights matters. And some offer mediation services to help their clients settle family disputes outside the courtroom.

Most family lawyers work in private law firms with fewer than 25 lawyers, although some may work for government agencies or nonprofits. (Above the Law Solo and Small Firm Compensation Report, 2022). However, the typical career path often involves starting as an associate attorney addressing legal matters at a small or mid-size family law firm. After gaining some experience, the attorney may eventually become a partner at the law firm or open their own practice. 

Of course, working in a law firm setting is not the only career path to obtain family law attorney jobs, as remote and freelance work is gaining traction in the legal field. Some attorneys opt to use services like LAWCLERK to find part-time and full-time legal jobs, depending on their desired workload.

What Skills Are Needed To Be Successful in this Career?

In addition to the inherent knowledge you’ll gain from years of work experience, family law attorneys must have a wide range of skills in order to succeed. First, they must be excellent communicators, both in writing and in person. When you consider the wide range of areas of specialty for family law attorneys including adoption, divorce attorneys, child support, and child custody, law offices need to be staffed with a variety of trained professionals offering legal services. They all must be able to clearly and concisely explain complex legal concepts to clients, opposing counsel, and judges.

They must also be skilled negotiators, as many family law cases are resolved through settlement agreements. Additionally, they must be able to navigate the often-emotional landscape of family law cases with empathy and sensitivity. This often requires well-honed interpersonal skills – similar to the bed-side manner of physicians.

Finally, they must be well-organized and detail-oriented, as they will often be dealing with multiple cases at the same time. And high-asset cases, in particular, can involve substantial paperwork and financial calculations.

What is the Average Salary for Family Attorneys?

So, how much do family law attorneys make? According to the 2022 Above the Law Solo and Small Firm Compensation Report, salaries in family law can range from $50,000 for associates to $500,000+ for experienced partners. The majority of associates surveyed earned between $50,000 and $149,000 while the largest segment of partners earned $150,000 to $249,999. This variance is likely due to the fact that partners usually have more experience and are responsible for bringing in new clients and business.

Additional data pertaining to family law attorney compensation was recently released in the 2022 Clio Legal Trends Report. This annual report surveyed over 1,000 legal professionals and found that the average hourly billing rate for a lawyer practicing in family was $283 per hour. Now this was the average across the U.S. and certainly that hourly rate will vary by market. You could use this data to calculate potential gross earnings based on the number of billable hours billed and collected. Then you would need to factor in expenses and overhead to deduct to calculate potential net earnings.

Keep in mind that the average salary for family attorneys varies widely depending on their years of experience and geographic location. For example, larger metropolitan areas like Los Angeles and the Bay Area might command higher base salaries than smaller firms focused on restraining orders and spousal support in San Mateo, or even San Diego located in Southern California.

Factors That Affect How Much a Family Law Attorney Makes

There are a variety of factors that affect how much a family law attorney can expect to earn. The size of the law firm and geographic location are two of the most important considerations. Generally speaking, larger firms located in major metropolitan areas tend to pay higher salaries than small firms located in more rural areas. All of this directly correlates to the hourly billing rates that firms can charge in different markets.

The type of work that the attorney does is also a factor. For example, attorneys who handle complex cases involving high net worth clients can expect to earn more than those who handle simple cases or act as mediators. And, of course, the years of experience an attorney has also plays a role in an attorney’s earning potential – with more experienced attorneys seeing higher earnings.

Where Do Family Lawyers Make the Most Money?

Lawyers who practice in cities with a higher cost of living tend to earn more than those who practice in smaller towns. In the United States, San Francisco, California consistently ranks at the top of family lawyer salaries, with an average salary of $92,296. New York City isn’t far behind, though, with an average annual salary of $88,826.

In a nutshell, family lawyers tend to make the most money in large metropolitan areas with populations in excess of 1 million. Family lawyers working in rural areas may not make as much money compared to their urban counterparts, but some attorneys still prefer living and working in small towns.

Fortunately, with the growth of remote work, attorneys are finding that they can land jobs virtually anywhere, from the comfort of their own homes. As a result, attorneys who reside in rural areas or small towns may still be able to earn salaries comparable to those of attorneys located in metropolitan areas.                 

Is it Worth it to Become a Family Law Attorney?

Deciding whether or not to become a family law attorney is a personal decision that depends on many factors. For some people, monetary compensation is the most important consideration. However, it is crucial to remember that money is not the only factor to consider when choosing a career path.

Another important factor is finding an area of practice that you enjoy and feel passionate about. If you enjoy working with families and helping them resolve their challenging legal issues, then family law might be the right career for you. Family law attorneys have the opportunity to make a real difference in people’s lives, and that can be its own reward.

And there’s good news for attorneys in general, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that attorney jobs will grow by 9%, adding 71,500 new attorney roles to the field by 2030. In a word, there is a lot of career potential for licensed attorneys going forward as we finish the 2020s.

How Much Do the Top 10% of Lawyers Make?

According to Above the Law’s compensation report, the top 11% of responding lawyers make over $500,000 per year. Of these top-tier earners, many trends have emerged. For instance, most of those earning more than $500,000 work at relatively large firms with 26-50 attorneys. They also work in large metro areas with populations over 1 million. And, the highest earners graduated law school in the 1990s – meaning they have at least two decades of experience under their belts.

In contrast, no associates reported annual earnings in excess of $500,000. However, roughly one out of every five partners reported being in the top tier, according to compensation. These findings suggest experience and location, as well as practice area, are key factors in determining earning potential for lawyers.

What Kind of Attorneys Make the Most Money?

When it comes to attorney salaries, there is a lot of variation. While every legal field has the potential to be a high-earning one, there are some general trends that can be observed. At the top of the salary scale are medical lawyers who practice healthcare law, personal injury, and medical malpractice. These attorneys make an average salary of $150,881, and over one third of attorneys concentrating on personal injury are in the top tier of attorneys – earning over $500,000 a year per the Above the Law Solo and Small Firm Compensation Report, 2022.

Coming in at a close second are intellectual property attorneys, with an average yearly salary of $140,972. Like personal injury attorneys, over a third of intellectual property attorneys are making more than $500,000 annually.

LAWCLERK Helps Family Law Lawyers Earn More

As a family lawyer, you know that every case is different and that each one presents its own unique challenges. You also know that meeting deadlines and minimizing overhead are essential to maintaining a successful practice. That’s where LAWCLERK comes in. LAWCLERK is a legal marketplace that connects remote associates and freelance lawyers with hiring attorneys for either project based work or ongoing help via a subscription.

For remote associates, LAWCLERK provides the personal freedom to work when and where you want on the projects you choose. For hiring attorneys, LAWCLERK can enable you to grow and scale your practice flexibly by bringing on remote associates for discrete projects or ongoing work. It can also help you take on more work and increase billable hours without adding to your workload.

Whether you want to grow your practice, expand into new areas, or find remote work that fits your schedule, LAWCLERK can help you connect with other attorneys. Want to learn more? Book a demo today to connect with one of our team members.

Kristin Tyler, Co-Founder Lawclerk

Kristin Tyler, Co-Founder Lawclerk

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