Do Lawyers Make More Money Than Judges?

Many people go to law school because they want to fight for justice, and some do it to give voice to the voiceless. But do lawyers really make more money than judges? The answer depends on the state and type of law. In 2016, U.S. News and World Report reported that the median annual pay for an attorney was $118,160. And while judges generally make more money than attorneys, there is no clear pattern among salaries for law professors and attorneys.

In general, good lawyers earn more than judges. However, you should consider the long-term sustainability of the career you are considering. The truth is that judges don’t make millions, but they can earn hundreds of thousands of dollars more per year. Judges make a guaranteed salary – and their salaries are not dependent on whether or not they win cases. For example, federal circuit judges made $184,500 in 2010, compared to an average of $70,810 per case for lawyers.

Federal law clerks can make more than their private practice bosses. One year of federal law clerk work in New York City can earn up to $175,000, compared with the $165,200 annual salary of a federal judge. Additionally, law clerks working for the Supreme Court may receive as much as a $200,000 signing bonus. The comparison is striking – first-year associates at top law firms in New York City can earn as much as $175,000, whereas federal judges earn only $165,200 a year.

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