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How to Join the League of Highest Paid Lawyers

Crack the code to a high-income legal career. Learn the marketing strategies of top-earning lawyers with Ken Hardison.

9 min


Mar 6, 2024

After years of dedication, hard work, and countless hours poured into law school, it's only natural to aspire to a high annual salary. The reality is that most lawyers earn significantly less than half a million dollars each year. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual pay for lawyers in 2022 was $135,740, with only the top 1% surpassing the $500,000 mark.

So, what sets apart that elite 1%? The secret lies in their mastery of marketing! These top earners leverage the power of digital marketing to attract clients and boost their annual revenue. And now, we're here to share those secrets with you in this article.

Furthermore, in our latest Grow Law Firm podcast episode, host Sasha Berson and Ken Hardison, Founder of PILMMA (Personal Injury Lawyers Marketing and Management Association) discuss "Mastering the Million-Dollar Law Firm Formula." Together, they reveal the strategies and insights you need to propel your legal career toward financial success.

Join Sasha Berson as he speaks with Ken Hardison from PILMMA.

7 Proven Strategies to Make More Money as a Lawyer

1. Lawyers Make Money with SEO

When potential clients search for legal services, they are more likely to click on websites that appear on the first page of search results. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) helps your website rank higher in search engine results pages by publishing captivating content, adding images, incorporating keywords, and much more.

seo for lawyers
An example of Google search results

SEO will always be a core part of most attorneys' marketing efforts, and SEO for attorneys will help you connect with potential clients, build your brand image, and generate revenue.

— Invest in Lawyer Local SEO to Increase Your Revenue

Local SEO focuses on connecting your business with local clients and leads. This approach leverages local keywords to increase your rankings in searches conducted by those in the city, county, or region in which you operate.

local seo for lawyers
An example of local search results

As part of your local SEO efforts, you need a Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business). This makes your legal services easier to find when users conduct location-based searches in your area.

2. The Highest Paid Lawyers Have the Best Website Design

73.1% of web designers consider non-responsiveness a top factor that causes visitors to leave a page. If your website is tedious to use, unresponsive, or poorly designed, visitors will exit just as soon as they arrive.

Non-responsiveness is a top factor that causes visitors to leave a page

Most lawyers know the importance of good website design, but the highest-paid ones understand the connection between an exceptional browsing experience and their ability to earn clients. With that in mind, you must invest in a quality website to connect with prospective clients and make more money.

— High-Performance Attorney Tips

First, address any page loading or responsiveness issues. If your site is slow or has buttons that don't work, fix these issues immediately.

From there, you can work to optimize your law firm's website with a better user experience and a more attractive web design. Doing so can leave you with one of the best law firm websites and significantly increase your ability to connect with clients.

3. High-Quality Content Will Increase Attorney Salary

The best way to showcase your legal expertise to potential clients is with a well-researched blog rich with high-traffic keywords.

You can break down complex topics like divorce, child custody, legal proceedings, or bankruptcy into an entire blog series. 

For each blog, research to see what commonly asked questions are trending in your industry. Then, answer these questions to create value and establish yourself as an authority.
legal blog example
An example of blog section covering personal injury topics

If you need extra inspiration to tap into your inner wordsmith, here are a few more tips for starting your legal blog.

4. Earn More Money as a Lawyer with PPC

SEO can be a powerful revenue generator, but it can take time to build momentum and rely on it for continual leads. On the other hand, pay-per-click (PPC) ads are a great way to kickstart your marketing efforts and generate traffic as soon as your website goes live.

It's not financially feasible to continuously rely on PPC marketing, and it should not be your sole strategy unless you want it to be one of your biggest expenses. Instead, invest in PPC in the early stages of your marketing journey to generate rapid results, and then periodically run PPC campaigns throughout the year to acquire new clients and make money during slow periods.

— How to Increase Lawyer Pay with Paid Ads

Because you pay for each click, targeting the right keywords is important to maximize your ROI. After all, keywords can cost up to $1,000 or more. Therefore, you must carefully research your keywords, analyze what your competitors are doing, and make the most out of your budget.

If you target the right keywords and carefully manage your budget, PPC for lawyers can be an incredibly effective for getting noticed in the online marketplace.

"I've always tried to do branding with direct response, to be honest with you, because I just didn't have a big enough; even though I spent two million dollars a year, that's still not enough to get the brand."
— Ken Hardison

5. All the Top Paid Law Firms Are in the Best Lawyer Directories

To attract more legal work and make more money, you must ensure your law practice is listed in at least a few of the top lawyer directories. Many lawyers overlook the importance of using these directories for client acquistion. But by making these listings part of your client intake strategy, you can expand your reach and connect with more clients.

lawyer directories
An example of directories for lawyers

Not all directories are worth your time, though. If you are new to legal directories, focus on a few top options like Avvo, Nolo, and FindLaw.

6. How to Increase Lawyer Salary? Manage Your Reputation!

No matter how hard you try, you can't keep everyone happy. Despite your legal expertise, you will eventually run into a disgruntled client who may take to the internet to voice their displeasure and leave a scathing review about your practice and legal work.

Unfortunately, negative feedback comes with any legal career. Not even the best lawyers are immune. The good news is that you can minimize the impact this has on your earning potential by managing your reputation.

How to increase lawyer salary
Managing reputation is critical for attorneys

Managing your reputation requires proactively working to create and protect a positive brand image online. It involves demonstrating your legal expertise by crafting quality content, responding to bad reviews, and obtaining positive feedback from clients on public forums like Google, Yelp, or Avvo.

While digital marketing for law firms is extremely important, it can also be complex and time-consuming. Don't let marketing overwhelm you. Leave us a message and we will take care of everything while you focus on what you do best: serving your clients.

7. Pillars of a Law Firm Success by Ken Hardison

In his appearance on the Grow Law Firm podcast, Ken Hardison, the founder of PILMMA, shared his insights on the pillars of a successful law firm. These pillars encompass essential elements that contribute to a firm's growth and prosperity. They include:

  • Focus and discipline: A renowned expert in the field emphasizes a laser-like focus on the right priorities, and consistently following through with disciplined actions is crucial. It's about staying on track and avoiding distractions that can deter progress.
  • Right people: A team of skilled and dedicated professionals who share your vision and values, bring their expertise, and contribute to the firm's success. Surrounding yourself with the right people creates a strong support system, enabling you to accomplish more together.
  • Strategy: Regularly evaluating metrics such as social media engagement, website performance, and call-to-action effectiveness allows for informed decision-making and continuous improvement. To stand out in a crowded legal market, it's crucial to differentiate yourself and answer the question, "Why should clients choose you over others?"
  • Execution and measurement: It's not enough to have a plan; consistent execution is key. Have quarterly planning meetings, assign ownership of projects, and conduct weekly check-ins to ensure progress. This structured approach significantly increases productivity, enabling the accomplishment of multiple goals each year.
  • Cash flow: Without proper capitalization and financial management, even the most promising ventures can falter. Hardison emphasizes the need to establish solid infrastructure, processes, and procedures from the outset to ensure smooth operations and financial stability.

Unleashing the Secrets of PILMMA Founder Ken Hardison's Law Firm Triumph

Ken Hardison, the founder of PILMMA, shared the secrets of his law firm's success in this Grow Law Firm podcast episode. He emphasized the importance of focus and discipline, hiring the right people, developing a sound strategy, and measuring results. Hardison also highlighted the significance of creating a unique value proposition and differentiating the firm from competitors.

"I don't care as much about likes. I care more about shares, you know, and comments because that's engagement."
— Ken Hardison

What Are the Statistics Behind the Highest Paid Lawyers?

Many people are intrigued by how much money a lawyer can make and what specific factors can lead to higher salaries. Let's review the statistics and see which type of lawyer typically makes the most money.

— Patent Lawyers

Patent lawyers average salary
Patent lawyers' average income
  • Earn an average income of $98,000;
  • Must have a background in science or engineering and pass the patent bar exam;
  • Patent attorneys can command a higher salary than other intellectual property practitioners;
  • Can also practice other areas of IP law.

— Intellectual Property Law (IP) Attorneys

  • Mean salary of about $134,000;
  • Median salary of about $100,000;
  • IP lawyers will usually fall on the higher end of the scale if they represent established corporations rather than individuals and startups;
  • Intellectual Property lawyers usually work for businesses and inventors;
  • IP attorneys can practice primarily as transactional lawyers or litigators.

— Trial Lawyers

  • Make a comfortable living with an average salary of $129,000;
  • Do not just show up on the day of the trial;
  • Often get involved in a case early;
  • Negotiate with opposing parties to settle the case;
  • Draft pleadings and motions, take discovery, and prepare witnesses for trial;
  • Work hard to litigate a case, and their salary reflects it.

— Tax Attorneys

Tax Attorney Salary
Tax attorneys' average income
  • Earn a regular salary of about $109,000;
  • Focus on federal, state, and local tax laws;
  • Tax attorneys do not need to get a special license to practice;
  • Usually have a background in accounting or another field related to tax law;
  • Tax attorneys spend their days in an office corresponding with the IRS, state and local tax agencies to resolve tax law disputes;
  • Pore over tax laws trying to find shelters to help their clients minimize their tax bills.

— Business and Corporate Lawyers

  • In-house corporate lawyers only make up 0.79% of lawyers, but they earn, on average, $198,900;
  • Business lawyers are often generalists;
  • Business and corporate lawyers place themselves in a position to become in-house lawyers for large corporations.
Interested in Business Law Marketing? Read Our Business Law Marketing Guide

— Employment and Labor Lawyers

  • Average income for employment and labor lawyers is about $113,000;
  • Salaries can range from $66,000 to $262,000;
  • Employment and labor lawyers handle everything from union negotiations to employment discrimination claims;
  • Remember that employment and labor disputes have two sides;
  • Many labor and employment lawyers spend their legal careers representing employers.
Looking For More Legal Clients? Read Our Employment Law Marketing Guide

— Estate Planning Lawyers

Estate Planning Lawyer Salary
Estate planning lawyers' average income
  • Median salary of about $96,000;
  • Can earn much more by working with wealthy clients;
  • Estate planning lawyers help clients structure their personal and business transactions in preparation for passing their estates after death;
  • Estate planning lawyers are typically not trial lawyers;
  • Estate attorneys may work with real estate attorneys to ensure the client's assets, like a home, are held correctly for the estate plan.
Want More Client Revenue? See Our Guide on Probate and Estate Planning

— Family Law Attorneys

Family Lawyer Salary
Family lawyers' average income
  • Get an average annual salary of about $75,000;
  • Salaries range from $51,000 to $118,000;
  • Family attorneys handle divorces, custody disputes, paternity claims, guardianship proceedings, adoptions, and prenuptial agreements;
  • The salary family attorneys earn depends on their clients.
Ready to Level Up Your Marketing Efforts? Read Our Family Law Marketing Blog

— Immigration Lawyers

Immigration Lawyer Salary in Chicago, IL
Immigration lawyers' average income
  • Average income is $70,000;
  • Immigrants come to the U.S. for a wide range of reasons;
  • Immigration lawyers help them navigate procedural law to secure a visa.
Want to be the Highest Paid Immigration Attorney? See our guide to learn more about immigration attorney marketing

— Personal Injury Lawyers

Persinal injury lawyer salary in the USA
Personal injury lawyers' average income
  • Personal injury lawyers earn an average salary of $85,000;
  • Salaries can vary widely from $61,000 to $110,000 or more;
  • Personal injury lawyers usually charge a contingency fee;
  • The type of cases personal injury lawyers take can affect their earnings, whether that be medical law, dog bites, car crashes, or anything else;
  • Medical malpractice cases can produce larger settlements and damage awards.
New to Digital Marketing for Lawyers? Read our guide to learn more about personal injury lawyer marketing

— Criminal Defense Lawyers

Criminal Defense Lawyers Salary
Criminal defense lawyers' average income
  • Average salary is $93,522;
  • Salaries range from about $78,000 to about $108,000;
  • Two primary factors that influence a criminal defense lawyer's salary are their experience and their employer;
  • Private defense attorneys make more than public defenders;
  • As criminal defense lawyers become more experienced, they may have the opportunity to take on corporate defendants, thereby drastically increasing their earning potential.
Want More Criminal Defence Clients? Check out digital marketing strategy for criminal defense attorneys

— Bankruptcy Lawyers

how much bankruptcy lawyers make
Bankruptcy lawyers' average income
  • In 2020, bankruptcy lawyers had mean lawyer salaries of about $84,000;
  • Median lawyer salaries are between $66,000 and $80,000;
  • Economic recessions often fuel bankruptcy filings, keeping bankruptcy attorneys busy;
  • During economic expansions, corporate and personal bankruptcies often slow down;
  • As a result, bankruptcy lawyer salaries often fluctuate with the economy.
Level up Your Digital Marketing Strategies for Bankruptcy Lawyers Today! Read Our How-to Guide Now!

— Civil Rights Lawyers

Civil Rights Lawyer Salary
Civil rights lawyers' average income
  • Mean salary for civil rights lawyers is about $61,500;
  • Can make as much as $300,000;
  • Civil rights lawyers usually work for public interest legal organizations;
  • This is an example where a lawyer's legal field has less influence on what a lawyer makes than the lawyer's employer;
  • Civil rights lawyers who make the most money work for public interest organizations instead of the government;
  • And lawyers for the federal government usually earn more than lawyers for state and local governments.

Your Final Step Towards $500k+ as a High-Paid Lawyer

Various factors impact your ability to make money as an attorney: education, experience, law firm size, and so much more, but the quality of your marketing experts is one of the most important.

If you want to generate more legal work for your practice and optimize your earning potential, it's time to partner with Grow Law Firm, the premier attorney SEO agency. Whether you operate a small business or a major practice, our dynamic team knows what it takes to help you grow.

Contact us today and schedule a free consultation.


  • Can Lawyers Earn a Million Dollars?

    Despite your legal expertise, the chances of making a million dollars as an independent attorney are low. However, you might earn a million-dollar salary if you become a senior partner at a major firm or start your own practice. Top corporate attorneys at major companies or some medical lawyers also have the potential to break the seven-figure salary barrier.

  • Where Do Lawyers Make the Most Money?

    According to 2020 data published in U.S. News and World Report, attorneys in the District of Columbia had the highest annual salaries. D.C. attorneys brought in an average of $197,000 each year. California came in second with an annual mean salary of $179,470, and New York was third, with an average income of $174,060.

  • What Type of Lawyer Gets Paid the Most?

    Some of the highest-paid niches include medical law, intellectual property law, private criminal defense law, and corporate law. Injury lawyers can also generate a healthy income if they win a few major cases.

  • Is Making Money as a Lawyer Hard?

    Making money as a lawyer can certainly be challenging. Between the stresses of working long hours, meeting tight deadlines, and competing with other practices for attention in the digital marketplace, you will have a lot on your plate. The good news is that you can succeed and make money with determination, a passion for your craft, and a great marketing strategy.

  • How can a lawyer make 500k a year?

    • Create an SEO for Lawyers Strategy
    • Build a Solid Law Firm Website
    • Write Engaging Attorney Content
    • Start a Lawyer PPC Campaign
    • Register Your Law Firm in Relevant Listings and Directories
    • Engage in Reputation Management for Lawyers

    First, you'll need to evaluate your law office management budget and determine how much you're willing to invest in marketing. This will help you plan and prioritize specific tactics, such as redesigning your website or focusing on search engine optimization. In the early stages of marketing, it's perfectly acceptable to invest heavily to expedite your firm's growth. However, as you gain momentum, carefully monitor your campaigns to avoid wasting money. If a campaign fails, take time to reevaluate what worked and what didn't so that you can learn from your mistakes.

Ken Hardison

Ken Hardison

Founder of PILMMA

Ken Hardison, the founder and president of PILMMA (Personal Injury Lawyers Marketing and Management Association), has an impressive background in the legal field. With over 27 years of experience practicing injury law, he built one of the largest Personal Injury Law Firms in North Carolina.

Although retired from practicing law, Ken remains actively involved, consulting with his former partner Ben Cochran on firm marketing. PILMMA, the organization he created, has become a multi-million-dollar association exclusively for injury and disability lawyers, with members spanning the United States, Canada, and Australia.

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