JD Degree Salary & Career Outlook

SPONSORED

Featured Schools

Southern New Hampshire University SNHU: Choose from over 200 online graduate programs offered by this non-profit, accredited university. NO GMAT or GRE required! SNHU has a tradition of excellence and a proven success rate – 95 percent of their students are employed upon graduation.

Johns Hopkins University - Carey School of Business: Online Master of Business Administration.

George Mason University: Master of Business Administration (MBA) Online.

A juris doctor or doctor of jurisprudence (JD) is a type of graduate degree designation that is required for a person to practice law in the US. It is a three year graduate degree that follows a four year bachelor’s degree. After obtaining a JD, graduates can take the bar examination which, if passed, will allow them to practice law. There are numerous positions open for those with a JD, many of which attract very lucrative salaries. Others prefer to use their skills for the common good, for instance. by working for legal aid companies, in which case salaries may not be very high, but personal satisfaction is greatly increased. With regards to demand, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has indicated that there is an expected growth rate of 6% in the number of jobs for lawyers from 2014 to 2024. Below some of the positions available to someone with a JD:

#1 Attorney/Lawyer

Most people who complete their JD go on to become lawyers or attorneys. This means that they provide legal advice to clients facing a variety of legal problems. There are many specializations within the field of law, such as business transactions, family law, criminal law, bankruptcy law, and so on. Regardless of the field in which they practice, lawyers represent the best interests of their clients.

Common tasks completed by a lawyer or attorney are:

  • To provide advice to clients in terms of their business transactions, prosecutions they are facing, liabilities they may claim, their legal responsibilities and rights, and so on
  • To choose jurors, meet with judges, argue motions, and cross-examine witnesses at trials
  • To provide representation to their clients when in court, presenting cases to the judge and jury and providing summaries
  • To represent clients before governmental agencies
  • To prepare a defense by gathering evidence and initiating legal action, evaluating the things they find out, and developing appropriate arguments and strategies
  • To interpret and analyze existing laws, regulations, and rulings so that they can determine the probable outcome of their cases

According to a recent Payscale.com report, the median annual salary of an attorney or lawyer is $81,706

#2 Associate Attorney

Associate attorneys are often a bar-registered but they do not have a lot of experience yet. They want to develop a career and specialization by being guided by someone more experienced. They help them with their cases and hold responsibility for report writing. Once they have sufficient experience, they can grow up the ranks within the law firm and, slowly but surely, take on their own clients until they become the lead attorney. In other words, associate attorneys need to expand their knowledge, such as performing research, preparing legal documents, and writing legal reports. Depending on their level of experience, they may advise clients, select a jury, argue cases in court, and negotiate with others. They are employees in law firms, rather than partners. However, being able to work within the law firm enables them to build invaluable experience and start to create a professional network.

Common tasks of an associate attorney are:

  • To provide advice to clients about liability claims, business transactions, and their legal obligations and rights in a lawsuit
  • To choose jurors, meet with judges, argue motions, and cross-examine witnesses during a trial
  • To represent people before government agencies or in courts, summarizing and presenting cases to juries and judges
  • To gather the necessary evidence to initiate legal action or to formulate a defense, while developing arguments and strategies by evaluating findings in order to present cases
  • To interpret and analyze regulations, rulings, and laws in an effort to predict the probable outcome for a particular case.

Payscale.com has reported that the median annual earnings for an associate attorney is $71,765.

#3 Staff Attorney

Staff attorneys usually work full time in a corporation, where they provide their employers with advice on legal issues, as well as represent them in court and at tribunals or other proceedings. Usually, they have an office within the legal department of a company, where they spend a lot of time looking at paperwork in order to prepare an analysis of cases. They are generally supervised by the head of the legal department. In large organizations, they are supervised by a more senior staff attorney. Typically, these positions are full time and overtime work is often required, especially when the company is involved in legal proceeding. Privacy regulations and confidentiality are two key areas that the staff attorney has to be experienced in.

A staff attorney commonly:

  • Provides advice to businesses about liability claims, business transactions, and their legal obligations and rights if they are defending or prosecuting in a lawsuit
  • Chooses jurors, meets with judges, argues motions, and cross-examines witnesses during a trial
  • Represents businesses before government agencies or in courts, summarizing and presenting cases to juries and judges
  • Gathers the necessary evidence to initiate legal action or to formulate a defense, while developing arguments and strategies by evaluating findings in order to present cases
  • Interprets and analyzes regulations, rulings, and laws in an effort to predict the probable outcome for the company’s case

In a recent Payscale.com report, it was stated that the median annual salary of a staff attorney is $64,544.

#4 Senior Counsel

A senior counsel has a lot of responsibility, particularly the handling a variety of legal issues within a law firm, or in certain situations, within a business. Exactly what their tasks are will vary depending on the needs of the organization, and which area of law they have specialized in. In general, however, they must be able to develop complex legal strategies in order to meet the specific requirements and needs of the organization they work for or for their clients. Also, they often act as mentors to assistant attorneys, working with large internal teams in order to ensure their needs are met. Furthermore, they often work directly with clients, ensuring strategies are developed that meet their particular needs, while at the same time providing legal advice. For instance, they often provide legal advice on contracts and land, while at the same time aiming to develop new contracts for those entities. They are highly skilled individuals who can resolve legal disputes through extensive knowledge and experience, but also through strong research, presentation, and communication skills.

On a day to day basis, a senior counsel:

  • Prepares, reviews, and negotiates contracts in relation to consultancy, research, rebates, and sales
  • Provides support within their organization for negotiations and bid responses
  • Supports the approval and creation of new goods and their marketing efforts

Payscale.com has reported that the median annual salary for a senior counsel is $152,120.

Summary

When you earn a JD, you are likely to work as an attorney or legal counsel in some way or another. There are many options available, including sticking to pro bono work in a disadvantaged community, to working your way up to become a partner in a huge large firm. Either way, salaries are good and the job is highly rewarding.

References

Sady Brown
Written by Sady Brown
Sady Brown is Editorial Strategist for Nogre.com