Some lawyers practice in areas like business law in order to bring home extremely high salaries, but others get into the legal field to make a difference by protecting the rights of the public. These human rights attorneys are typically paid much less than business or personal injury attorneys, but they may enjoy a greater level of job satisfaction knowing that they stood up for "the little guy."
The salary of a human rights lawyer can be affected by employer and location. According to LawCrossing.com, the average starting salary of a civil rights lawyer was about $45,000, at the time of publication. The website indicates that lawyers in this field can make as much as $200,000 per year, especially when working for government agencies. The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that attorneys working for the federal government averaged $130,210 per year, as of May 2010. Those working for state governments earned an average of $82,190 annually.
Placing the salary of human rights lawyers within the larger pay scale of lawyers nationwide provides some additional context. According to the BLS, the average salary of lawyers nationwide was $112,760 per year in 2010. The highest-paid lawyers earned salaries of $165,470, while those in the middle 50 percent earned salaries between $75,200 and $165,470. Some lawyers earned considerably less at $54,130 per year or less.
Where a lawyer works also provides some idea of what he can expect to make as an average salary. The BLS indicates that lawyers in New York, California, the District of Columbia and Delaware made average salaries in excess of $150,000 per year in 2010. Connecticut, which was the fifth-highest paying state in 2010, reported average salaries of $138,420 per year. in addition to New York and California, lawyers in Florida, Texas and Illinois worked in the states with the highest number of lawyers. Lawyers in Florida made an average salary of $118,040, while those in Texas and Illinois made salaries of $128,650 and $132,620, respectively.
The legal field continues to grow in terms of the number of new jobs available to law school graduates. According to the BLS, the number of jobs for lawyers will grow by about 13 percent during the decade from 2008 to 2018. Those who want to make a difference and are willing to sacrifice a higher starting salary may wish to seek a job as a human rights lawyer.