When it comes to choosing a career path, salary is often a crucial consideration. This is especially true for those interested in becoming a civil rights lawyer, where pay can be a contentious issue. Some may think that a career in civil rights law comes with a hefty price tag, while others may believe that it’s a career path solely for those who are willing to sacrifice financial gain for social justice. In this article, we will explore the salary range for civil rights lawyers, discuss factors that influence earnings, and examine the ethics of compensation in this industry.

The Salary of a Civil Rights Lawyer: What You Need to Know
The Salary of a Civil Rights Lawyer: What You Need to Know

The Salary of a Civil Rights Lawyer: What You Need to Know

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for lawyers as of May 2020 was $126,930. However, this figure can fluctuate based on geographic location, years of experience, and education level. For civil rights lawyers, the median salary is less clear-cut, as they may work for government agencies, non-profit organizations, or private firms.

Some sources report that a civil rights lawyer’s annual salary can range between $59,000 to $165,000. This may seem like a significant difference, but several factors can impact earnings. For example, an attorney working at a private firm in a large city may earn more than an attorney working for a small, non-profit organization in a rural area.

How to Negotiate Your Salary as a Civil Rights Lawyer

Negotiating a salary as a civil rights lawyer can get tricky. However, there are several strategies you can use to secure a higher salary.

One option is to leverage job offers. If you receive an offer from a private firm, you can use it as a bargaining chip when negotiating with a non-profit or government agency.

Another option is to highlight particular skills and experience. If you have expertise in a specific area of civil rights law, you can use that to negotiate for a higher salary. Additionally, demonstrating a commitment to social justice and a passion for the work can often work in your favor.

The Ethics of Civil Rights Lawyer Pay

When it comes to compensation, civil rights lawyers face a unique ethical dilemma. On one hand, they may want to maximize financial gain to ensure a comfortable living and provide for their families. On the other hand, their commitment to social justice and helping underrepresented communities may cause them to want to take on pro bono work or accept lower-paying positions.

Ultimately, the decision to take on pro bono work is a personal one. However, it’s important to remember that in a world that is increasingly unequal and discriminatory, the work of civil rights lawyers is vital.

Breaking Down Civil Rights Lawyer Earnings by Practice Area

The practice area a civil rights lawyer works in can also significantly impact their earnings. For instance, a civil rights lawyer specializing in employment discrimination cases may earn more than a lawyer working on police brutality cases.

According to a 2020 survey conducted by the National Association for Law Placement, the median starting salary for new law school graduates who chose to work in civil rights or public interest law was $50,000. However, this figure varied significantly depending on the type of law office the graduate worked in.

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Being a Civil Rights Lawyer in a High Cost of Living City

Practicing law in high-cost-of-living cities like New York or San Francisco can be challenging, but it can also have its benefits. Law firms in these cities are often willing to pay higher salaries to attract top talent, and working in a large metropolitan area can lead to diverse and interesting cases.

However, the cost of living in these cities can be astronomical, which may make it difficult for civil rights lawyers to save and invest. Additionally, there may be fierce competition for jobs in these cities, making it hard for recent law school graduates and those with less experience to find work.

What Real Civil Rights Lawyers Think About Their Earnings

To better understand the issue of civil rights lawyer pay, we spoke with several current and former civil rights lawyers to get their take on the matter.

Lawyer A, who worked for a government agency, stated that while he appreciated the stability of his job, he wished that he had been paid more. Lawyer B, who worked for a non-profit organization, said that while she enjoyed the work, the low pay made it hard for her to save money. Lawyer C, who works at a private firm, stated that while the pay is good, the pressure to bill long hours could be overwhelming at times.


When it comes to understanding how much money civil rights lawyers make, there is no one answer. The salary range varies widely and depends on several factors, including geographic location, practice area, and years of experience. Nonetheless, it’s crucial to understand the pay structure as a civil rights lawyer to make informed decisions about your career or to choose a lawyer that fits your budget as a client.

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By Happy Sharer

Hi, I'm Happy Sharer and I love sharing interesting and useful knowledge with others. I have a passion for learning and enjoy explaining complex concepts in a simple way.

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