If you have watched too many episodes of the top-rated television series Law & Order, you may have been interested in becoming an attorney. And, yes, you can imagine yourself walking into an office with the theme song, too!
While criminal law might not have been your preferred legal expertise, there are many types of lawyers that can earn you a terrific salary, from corporate to tax.
Whatever the case, it can oftentimes be challenging to determine where you should practice law. Be it in Europe or North America, if you are excited about advancing your legal career, you might need to seek the best countries for lawyers. Whether it is attaining a law degree or finding a career, you’ll find that some countries are better suited than others.
So, where is the best country to be a lawyer? Which country pays lawyers the most? We have compiled a list of the top ten nations that pay high salaries in the law industry.
Average annual salary: $60,610 (CA$77,000)
It takes about three to six years to become a licensed lawyer in Canada. You can enter law school after completing a Bachelor's degree or after gaining legal work experience. Law school in Canada is quite demanding. After completing the degree, you’ll have to obtain a Diploma of Notarial Law or a Master’s degree of law with a specialization in notarial law.
You’ll also need at least 32 weeks of vocational training. This is followed by the licensing exam and to be called to the bar in the province where you plan to practice. All Canadian lawyers are certified by the National Committee on Accreditation.
Average annual salary: $65,490 (£48,410)
You must complete a three-year university program to obtain a degree in law in the United Kingdom. Law schools in Great Britain receive a tremendous amount of applications every year. Candidates must pass the character and suitability assessment governed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. You also need to pass the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE).
If successful, you can be eligible for the one-year bar professional tracking course and a 12-month pupillage in the court chambers. The average salary for a junior lawyer in the United Kingdom is about $65,000, but those with experience can easily earn two to three times that amount.
Average annual salary: $67,130 (€58,960)
The legal profession in Germany is extremely fierce, with a barrage of young people fighting for positions in well-known firms and even inside the government. Consequently, only the best students in the country get admission to reputable programs.
Candidates have to complete a two-year legal training program supervised by the Ministry of Justice and comprises both practical and theoretical aspects of the law. The next step is to take the oral and written exams.
Average annual salary: $69,050 (€60,630)
Lawyers in France are well paid, but they must complete a Bachelor’s degree in law (a three-year program), and a two-year Master's program. While education in France is subsidized, the workload is intense. Fluency in French is required if you wish to practice in the country. However, a lawyer in France can practice law anywhere in the European Union once they receive their license, which could potentially increase your salary opportunities.
Average annual salary: $79,320 (€69,660)
Becoming a lawyer in Ireland is not easy, because few universities offer law degree programs, and hence competition is intense. It can take from three to six years before candidates sit for the licensing exam. Those with a Bachelor's degree can complete the law program in three years.
After graduation from law school, you also need to take the Professional Practice Course, Part l and Part Il, which form part of the essential law training. In between the professional course, candidates must complete a 24-month traineeship with a licensed solicitor. You can practice law after passing the final exam.
Average annual salary: $87,030
There are many excellent legal programs in the U.S. It takes about seven years after high school to become a lawyer — four years to obtain a Bachelor's degree, followed by three years of law school. In some states, such as California, you can study online, but you must pass the three-part mini-bar exam to become a lawyer. After graduation from law school, you can apply to the bar.
There are ample opportunities for lawyers in America, and experienced lawyers can earn upwards of $140,000 a year.
Average annual salary: $80,860 (€71,000)
This is a small nation, and its law education is controlled by the government. To become a lawyer, one must complete a Master's degree in law, which has to be conferred by the University of Luxembourg. This is followed by the CCDL (Cours Complémentaires en Droit Luxembourgeois). The CCDL courses are offered every year starting in autumn, with the exams taking place in mid-February.
Also, to practice as a lawyer in Luxembourg, you must demonstrate an intermediate level of skills in Luxembourgish, German and French. In addition, you will need to obtain a language certificate. Once you are sworn in, your name will appear on the Luxembourg bar, and you will be considered a junior lawyer until you complete a two-year apprenticeship and pass the exams.
Average annual salary: $116,680 (¥13,547,670)
Japan has several excellent legal programs, but there is intense competition. After completion of law school, candidates must complete a Master's degree (law diploma) to prepare for the bar exam, which only has a pass rate of 20%. The bar exam takes part in two stages. After the bar exam, you must obtain legal training working as an intern in the DA offices or the courts.
There is a severe shortage of lawyers in Japan, and it is a lucrative profession, but it is critical to remember that fluency in Japanese is mandatory.
Average annual salary: $143,230 (CHF133,000)
Lawyers in Switzerland must complete a three- to five-year university program and a two-year Master's degree to sit for the bar exam. Some citizens who attend a government-approved law school in Switzerland are exempt from the Swiss bar exam. If you want to establish your private practice, you need to complete an apprenticeship that varies from one to three years.
1. Hong Kong
Average annual salary: $147,580 (HK$1,150,000)
Candidates must complete a Bachelor’s law degree from a reputable university followed by a post-graduate certificate in law. An apprenticeship or a trainee follows this with a licensed lawyer for two to three years before qualifying as a solicitor. In Hong Kong, the law profession is divided into barrister and solicitors, and there are slight variances in how one can train to be either. For example, a solicitor usually deals with the public in lower courts, whereas a barrister works in higher courts and does not directly get involved with the public.
The average salary for lawyers in Hong Kong is upward of $145,000 a year, but experienced lawyers can make much more.
The legal profession is highly competitive, so it can be challenging to pinpoint the best country to be a lawyer. In addition to the highest-paying jurisdictions, you also need to find a job, calculate the cost of living, understand the tax situation and a wide variety of factors that could impact your overall living standards. Hong Kong is a great place to live and work, but do you want to learn the local language? Canada is a beautiful country, but do you want to endure the freezing cold for half the year? Indeed, you have to consider every component of relocating for your professional endeavors.
Are you considering relocating abroad? In which country would you like to work as a lawyer? Let us know in the comments!
This is an updated version of an article originally published on 30 January 2017.