Salary Information for Civil Rights Lawyers

by Andrine Redsteer
Civil rights attorneys advocate for victims of racial, gender and religious discrimination.

Civil rights attorneys advocate for victims of racial, gender and religious discrimination.

Civil rights law concerns American citizens' civil liberties and fundamental rights. The Constitution ordains these rights, while significant pieces of legislation -- such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 -- enumerate them. Civil rights attorneys enforce civil rights, often by representing clients who have experienced discrimination due to race, age, religion or sex. Voting rights, as well as freedom of speech and assembly, are also privileges which civil rights attorneys seek to protect. Like attorneys who practice in other fields, aspiring civil rights attorneys must fulfill certain requirements before they can begin practicing. In other words, a law degree and admission to the bar are prerequisites.


The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported an annual median salary of $112,760 for lawyers in 2010. Attorneys positioned in the bottom 10 percent of the profession brought in annual salaries of $54,130 or less, while attorneys positioned in the top 10 percent drew annual salaries of $166,400 or more. Although a number of factors influence attorneys' salaries, key factors -- such as years spent practicing, the type of law practiced and location -- have the greatest impact on attorneys' earning potential.

Regional Comparisons

According to's July 2013 data, civil rights lawyers earn average annual salaries of $101,848. Civil rights lawyers based in Los Angeles earn annual salaries of $89,170, on average. Minneapolis-based attorneys who specialize in civil rights law earn average annual salaries of $96,167. In Dallas, lawyers practicing in this field average $79,125 annually, while those practicing in New York draw average annual salaries of $89,500.

Contributing Factors

A number of law schools offer civil rights law concentrations through course offerings and clinics. Civil rights clinics give students the opportunity to represent clients -- under the supervision of experienced civil rights attorneys -- in civil rights cases. Litigation experience is extremely valuable, and aspiring civil rights attorneys who have gained litigation experience during law school have an advantage over their competitors. Reputable, large law firms with civil rights law divisions prefer applicants with relevant, practical experience. Furthermore, lawyers employed by large firms typically earn significantly more than those who work in small firms.

Career Outlook

Lawyers can anticipate a 10-percent growth rate in employment from 2010 to 2020, as predicted by the BLS. This growth increase is roughly equivalent to that of other occupations. The BLS reports a decline in the demand for attorneys as a result of greater reliance on legal assistants and paralegals. Increased reliance on legal assistants and paralegals isn't surprising -- they often perform many of the same tasks as attorneys, while receiving less pay.

About the Author

Andrine Redsteer's writing on tribal gaming has been published in "The Guardian" and she continues to write about reservation economic development. Redsteer holds a Bachelor of Arts in history from the University of Washington, a Master of Arts in Native American studies from Montana State University and a Juris Doctor from Seattle University School of Law.

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