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How Much Do Corporate Lawyers Make a Year?

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Corporate lawyers can work for a company or be self-employed and represent various clients. They guide their corporate clients and their employees through their legal rights and obligations, representing them as needed in both civil and criminal cases. Minimum requirements include an undergraduate degree, three years of law school and admission to the state bar. Most corporate lawyers work in comfortable offices, with access to legal staff.


Corporate lawyers earn a base salary of $74,974 to $145,787 per year as of January 2011, according to the Report. However, adding annual bonuses of $4,958 to $22,533, profit sharing of $1,000 to $9,952, and commissions of $509 to $15,000 can boost total compensation to the range of $81,263 to $162,558.


In general, the more experience corporate lawyers have, the higher their salaries because they reach more clients and develop more strategies for winning their cases. New lawyers earn $59,665 to $120,079 per year, but with one to four years of work they make $61,741 to $110,103. (The higher end of the first year is due to signing and recruiting bonuses.) At five to nine years, they get $92,471 to $144,579, and at 10 to 19 years they top out at $99,226 to $187,019. Compensation takes a slight dip at 20 years or more to a range of $108,090 to $178,574.

Practice Type

The type of practice can affect salaries. Those who specialize in taxes earn $78,906 to $156,687 per year. Experts in intellectual property and patent law protect the creations of a company so only it can profit. They make $83,020 to $145,779. Those who practice in corporate mergers and acquisitions can help their organizations expand smoothly. They receive $73,385 to $142,006.


The type of employer can determine salaries, with those lawyers working for a private practice firm earning the most money at $85,000 to $158,814 per year. This is slightly more than the compensation of those who are self-employed, with earnings at $87,097 to $148,738. Those working for the federal government make $76,302 to $127,743, while those in state and local jurisdictions receive $54,045 to $86,476. Colleges and universities pay $70,000 to $127,500 while companies offer $72,552 to $143,403.


Aurelio Locsin has been writing professionally since 1982. He published his first book in 1996 and is a frequent contributor to many online publications, specializing in consumer, business and technical topics. Locsin holds a Bachelor of Arts in scientific and technical communications from the University of Washington.