Where Do Lawyers Work?

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Lawyers work in all types of employment settings and may do some work for every type of employer out there, whether large or small. To simplify, note that lawyers are found in several contexts. Several lawyers have their own private practice while others work in sectors such as the government, social policy agencies, or another type of business. Learn how lawyers work in various settings and how they set the track for their legal career.

Private Practice

A handful of lawyers work independently in solo practices but most practicing lawyers work as part of a larger team of lawyers. Over three-quarters of the one million-plus licensed attorneys in the nation work in private practice. Those employed in a law firm can work as partners and associates, however, these firms also tend to hire legal professionals for other duties, such as legal secretaries, clerks, litigation support and more. The average annual salary for a lawyer in private practice is $137,000.


Lawyers are hired by local, state and the federal government for work on cases as well as analysis. Some lawyers might do legal research on topics related to laws or policies. This career can lead to working for state attorneys general, public defenders, district attorneys, and the courts. They can also investigate cases on a federal level, such as for the U.S Department of Justice. The average salary for this role is $130,000 a year.

Social Policy Agencies

Private and nonprofit policy agencies and think tanks hire lawyers to research policy-related topics, write briefs intended to educate policymakers and litigate. Think tank jobs often include nonprofit, public policy organizations that include advocacy initiatives. Typically, these are independent organizations but some have government relations or funding. Lawyers who are savvy and passionate about policy and research will enjoy this type of role, however, the annual average salary is about what a nonprofit can offer.


Every large business employs lawyers. They might deal with human resources issues, such as hiring policies. Others do work related to be the business itself. For example, a lawyer who works at a pharmaceutical company might be involved in litigation or in determining the legal feasibility of particular actions.

Working in a corporate law firm often comes with big responsibilities and a huge paycheck, but with smaller law firms, lawyers can expect more varied work, flexible work schedules, and more hands-on experience.

Take Your Pick

Lawyers work in all settings. With creativity, ingenuity, and hard work, you can have a legal career in any setting you work. Consider whether you see yourself working at a private practice, government entity, social policy agency or business, whether corporate or small. Weigh the options of what type of law you will be performing, the passion you have for the industry, the scale at which you will be working and of course, balance all of these pros and cons with the annual median salary. As a lawyer, you have options.

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Your Citation
Kuther, Tara, Ph.D. "Where Do Lawyers Work?" ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, thoughtco.com/where-do-lawyers-work-1686266. Kuther, Tara, Ph.D. (2020, August 28). Where Do Lawyers Work? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/where-do-lawyers-work-1686266 Kuther, Tara, Ph.D. "Where Do Lawyers Work?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/where-do-lawyers-work-1686266 (accessed March 27, 2023).