California Occupational Guides

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Summary Guide for

Lawyers in California

May also be called: Attorneys; Attorneys at Law; Associates; Associate Attorneys; Partners; and Legal Counselors

Specialties within this occupation include: Civil Attorneys; Criminal Lawyers; Family Lawyers; Personal Injury Lawyers; Real Estate Lawyers; Estate Lawyers; Insurance Attorneys; Military Lawyers; Corporate Lawyers; Entertainment Lawyers; Environmental Lawyers; Intellectual Property Lawyers; Probate Lawyers; Real Estate Lawyers; Sports Lawyers; Tax Attorneys; and Title Attorneys

What Would I Do?

Lawyers advise clients about their legal rights and obligations and act as advocates for them in court or negotiation proceedings. They may specialize in a single area or may practice in many areas of law.

Lawyers work in comfortable offices but can spend a good deal of time in court. Most Lawyers spend much of their time researching law and writing official documents. Lawyers often work long hours under pressure to meet important deadlines. They may work evenings and weekends to finish their workload.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The position of Lawyer will appeal to those who enjoy leading people and making decisions. Perseverance, creativity, and reasoning ability are essential to Lawyers. Integrity, excellent writing skills, and strong communication skills are also necessary to be successful.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

Salaries vary with the size, type, location, clientele, and reputation of law firms. On one hand, new Lawyers or trial Lawyers who are paid on contingency basis may lose money. On the other hand, partners in law firms may earn over $1 million per year.

The median wage in 2021 for Lawyers in California was $165,307 annually, or $79.47 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

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Annual Wages for 2021Low
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(75th percentile)
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2021 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
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Benefits provided by private firms and government agencies include vacation, sick leave, holidays, retirement, and comprehensive health plans. Corporate Lawyers may receive bonuses and stock options. Self-employed Lawyers are responsible to provide their own benefits.

What is the Job Outlook?

As the population grows, demand for legal services increases. However, growth will be tempered as businesses increasingly use alternatives to Lawyers such as paralegals or arbitration services.

How Do I Qualify?

It takes six to eight years of full-time study after high school to become a Lawyer. To practice law in California, Lawyers must become members of The State Bar of California by passing the required exams and paying the appropriate fees.

Finding a Job

Many law students use directories of law firms or government agencies and apply directly by sending resumes. Some find jobs through legal journals and magazines. Jobs can also be obtained through referrals or networking. Professional associations may provide job search assistance. Students can register with their school placement center for job leads and use other career services.  Online job opening systems include JobCentral at and CalJOBSSM at

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Learn More About Lawyers