Lawyers include solicitors, barristers, Magistrates and Judges in Australia.

How much do lawyers earn or how much do lawyers make in Australia? Below is a table outlining the average income of solicitors, Magistrates and Judges based on gender.

Average income for 2017/18 financial year- Judges, Magistrates and solicitors

Occupation Female Male
Judge $380,009 $410,778
Magistrate $277,129 $272,394
Lawyer (Solicitor) $112,731 $148,487
Intellectual property lawyer, Patent or Trade Mark Lawyer $109,741 $174,837

How much do barristers make and what is the salary of a barrister? Below is a table outlining the average income of barristers based on gender.

Average income for 2017/18 financial year- Barristers

Occupation Female Male
Barrister $70,227 $190,454

The statistics reflect that female Judges are getting paid less than male Judges, while female Magistrates are getting paid more than male Magistrates in the 2017/18 financial year.

Being a lawyer is a demanding job that requires high marks in the first place, years of study and foregoing the opportunity to earn money during that time, a big HECS debt, working long hours under a great deal of pressure in difficult situations. I can involve arguing cases inside the courtroom on a daily basis, under the critical judgment of not only the magistrate or judge, but also everyone else present.

There can be a lot of ups and downs, and mental health issues are prevalent across the profession. Like many jobs, being a lawyer requires dedication, diligence and a very thick skin.

That said, most lawyers consider the job to be both challenging and rewarding – involving supporting those who are going through very tough times in their lives.

Lawyer Income

The average income for a male lawyer in Australia is $112,258 per annum, and for a female is $91,928. Again, the average takes into account all lawyers, including the top earners.

Many lawyers practise across a number of areas, but there’s also the opportunity to specialise.

If you choose to specialise, for example, as an intellectual property lawyer, then you can earn more than the average, for example, an average income for an IP lawyer is $132,976.

Of course, income can differ depending on the state or territory of practise. There are variances across each jurisdiction, and it is not always the case that the salaries in Sydney and Melbourne are higher than other places. As with every profession, salaries also reflect experience and competency in the role.

Criminal defence lawyers tend to earn significantly less than other lawyers, which dispels the myth that all lawyers are well-paid.

An entry-level criminal defence lawyer with less than 1 year experience can expect to earn an average income of $62,353, while a criminal defence lawyer with years of experience through to the end of their career earns an average of $113,728.

Of all types of lawyers, criminal lawyers tend to spend the most time in court, because in any given week, they can find themselves representing clients across a range of criminal matters from defending the most serious murder and manslaughter charges, to drugs, assaults, fraud, and even straight-forward traffic cases.

A generalist in-house counsel earns an average salary of $128,988, according to data from SEEK. Building and construction lawyers trail slightly at an average of $124,041, while corporate lawyers lag significantly at an average of $118,558. The average family lawyer in Australia earns $97,981.

Defence Lawyers Melbourne

Of course, lawyers’ salaries can also vary widely depending on their experience. A junior corporate lawyer earns an average starting salary of $70,000 per year, while the most experienced corporate lawyers can make more than $200,000, according to Lexology.

The size of a lawyer’s organization can also play a role. General counsel for a global company can take home between $285,000 and $440,000, while GCs with multijurisdictional coverage can expect annual pay between $400,000 and $750,000, with the most experienced earning an average of $750,000 to $1 million per year.

Lawyers’ salaries can also be affected by where they practice. According to Beacon Legal’s Private Practice Salary and Market Report 2020, Sydney had the highest-paying lawyer jobs in the country, followed by Melbourne and Brisbane.

Criminal defence lawyers, like other legal professionals, tend to earn more the more experienced they are. A junior criminal lawyer can expect to earn as little as $45,000 per year, while more experienced criminal lawyers can make more than $150,000, according to Lexology. The average salary for criminal lawyers is $72,075, according to PayScale.

Beacon Legal published their ‘Private Practice Salary and Market Report 2020’ earlier this year and noted that Sydney was home to the highest paying lawyer jobs in Australia.

The average lawyer salary in Melbourne was the second highest in the country followed by Brisbane in third place.

Corporate law salaries range from $70,000 to $200,000.

Consultancy firm Taylor Root, published its “2020-21 Salary Guide & Market Report for the Banking & Financial Services Legal sector in Australia” iwhich looks at the salaries in various legal department.

General Counsel for a global company can earn between $285,000-$440,000.

However those working as General Counsel with multi-jurisdictional roles can earn more, ranging from $400,000 to $1m.

Expected earnings from criminal defence lawyers will once again depend upon experience. Junior lawyers earn around $45,000, while the top end will be $150,000 or more.

According to PayScale, the average annual salary for a criminal lawyer is $72,075.

This will also be affected by which State and geographic locality in which they practice, as well as their expertise and experience.

The average Family Lawyer salary in Australia is $ 68,993 according to PayScale.

At the lowest end of the scale are junior family lawyers who earn an average annual salary of $52,000.

Conversely, the top 10% of Family Lawyers earn an average annual salary of $133,000.

The average income for barristers in the 2017/18 financial year was starkly different when males and females were analysed separately.

Female barristers earned an average yearly income of $70,227. This was significantly less than their male counterparts who earned an average yearly income of $190,454.

These figures are amongst the highest gender gap in the country.

By way of comparison, in 2018/19 the average salary of females across all occupations was $49,922, while the average salary for males was $71,917.


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