Top 10 Law Schools by Salary Potential

A law degree isn't the guarantee of success that it used to be, but if you choose the right law school, you stand a much better chance of earning a high salary, both after graduation and over the long term. That doesn't mean that you need to set your sights on the Ivy League, however. This year's College Salary Report includes plenty of programs from non-Ivy schools.

Lawyers Are Killing Themselves, and No One Knows Why

It's not something you read about very often, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does keep data on professions with high incidence of suicide. Currently, lawyers are fourth on that list, the CDC tells CNN, right behind dentists, pharmacists, and physicians. What they can't tell us, exactly, is why lawyers rank so high on the list, or specifically what makes some professions more prone to suicide than others.

Environmental Lawyer Salaries

Name: Stu Flashman
Job Title: Environmental Lawyer
Where: Oakland, CA - USA
Current Employer: Self-Employed
Years of Experience: 18
Education: Brown University - B.A. and Sc.M. in Biology; Harvard University - Ph.D. in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology; New College of California - J.D.
Other Relevant Experience: Ten years as a Research Biologist (it helps with the science in Environmental Law).
Annual Salary: See PayScale's Research Center to find lawyer starting salaries, and compare lawyer salaries by city.

Things don’t always work out according to plans. Stu Flashman studied biology at Brown University, earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology from Harvard and then went to work as a biotech researcher. Then, when he was laid off after ten years in the field, Stu came to the realization that he’d embarked on the wrong career path. In a case like this, what can you do, other than alter your course and make the best of it? That’s exactly what Stu did. He went to law school, passed the bar, and used his biotech research background to launch a career in environmental law.

Although it took Stu several years to get himself established as a solo environmental lawyer, he now experiences numerous rewards from his work. He gets to select his own clients, take cases he cares about, and see his work positively affect the community. Now, with 18 years of experience as an environmental lawyer, Stu's salary reaches far beyond the original $15,000 he made in his first year of legal practice.

Criminal Defense Attorney Salaries

Name: Scott Pactor
Job Title: Criminal Defense Attorney - Attorney at Law
Where: San Diego, CA 
Employer: Self-Employed
Years of Experience: 6
Education:J.D. Hastings College of Law, San Francisco; B.A. American University, Washington D.C.   
Salary: See the PayScale Research Center for criminal defense attorney salaries.

Criminal Defense Attorney Salaries

If you're interested in criminal defense attorney salaries or have ever wondered what's it's really like to work as a criminal defense attorney in California (or anywhere else), then you don't want to miss this Salary Story. San Diego criminal attorney Scott Pactor gave us the inside scoop on criminal defense attorney salaries and the attorney jobs California and other states have to offer. This interview is court-mandated reading!

Federal Judges’ Annual Salary: Constitutional Crisis

In his second annual report, Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts advocated an increase in federal judges’ annual salary, as reported by the New York Times. Roberts warned that federal judges’ annual salary “has now reached the level of a constitutional crisis that threatens to undermine the strength and independence of the federal judiciary.” Pretty strong words, but does he have a case? Is the federal judges’ annual salary actually smaller than a Baltimore SUV accident lawyer, Ohio crime defense lawyer, or even AZ administrative law judges?

Justice Roberts says that since 1969 the national average wage rate has risen by 17.8 percent, while the average salary for federal judges has dropped by 23.9 percent. Roberts claimed that because of this “dramatic erosion of judicial compensation” it was “clear that the time is ripe for our nation’s judges to receive a substantial salary increase.” According to Roberts, the failure to increase the federal judges’ annual salary lies at the feet of Congress.

How does your annual salary stand up in court? Get the judgment with our salary calculator.