Statistically, the salary of a criminal defense lawyer ranges from about nine hundred thousand dollars or even more. The amount of money you can earn as a defense attorney varies based on factors such as your level of education, additional skills, the number of years you’ve been in the business, and even the certifications you have. Notably, the services or practice areas you deal with also influence what you earn as a criminal defense attorney. And to better understand some of the areas of practice to specialize in as a new attorney, learn more from established defense attorney firms such as Stroleny Law, P.A

At a firm like this, you’ll explore the areas you can focus on to help boost your earning potential as a defense attorney and how to start and establish a successful career as a legal defense attorney.

The Average Salary of a Criminal Defense Attorney

The average salary of a criminal defense attorney ranges from twenty-five thousand dollars to about six hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars on the higher end.

An average earner takes home between a hundred and twenty thousand dollars to about three hundred thousand dollars and sometimes more. If you’re considered a top-ranking defense lawyer offering local and international services, you could earn more than six hundred thousand dollars. 

Factors Affecting the Salary of a Criminal Defense Attorney

Like other careers, the amount of money you earn as a defense attorney depends on factors including the following:

The Level of Expertise

Your career as a defense attorney is ranked based on your level of expertise in the field or your academic qualifications. For example, defense attorneys who graduate with masters earn more even within their first years in comparison to those with degrees and diplomas.


While experience and expertise sometimes mean or sound like the same thing, your level of knowledge as a defense attorney is mainly judged based on your academic qualification rather than the years you have worked. In this case, experience and expertise become two different factors influencing your salary. 

With regards to knowledge, what you earn is determined by how long you serve as a defense attorney. Ultimately, the more years you serve, the more you earn, considering you can sometimes get promotions. In addition, if you choose to operate independently, your years of experience also increases the amount you make because you’ll most likely increase your service charges year after year.

Client Testimonials and Reviews

Like other professionals, you will likely earn more based on the number of happy clients you handle and the quality of your services with satisfactory results and expectations. Previous clients will refer new clients to you, thus increasing your monthly or even annual earnings.  

The Number of Cases You Handle Monthly or Annually

Supposing you charge according to the severity of a client’s accusations or the amount of time you spend on each case, you will most likely earn more depending on the number of cases you handle monthly or annually. If you calculate your earnings based on the total number of cases you handle without considering the amount you charge per case, your earnings will be relatively the same throughout the year.

Your Area of Specialization

Unlike other factors, your specialty as a defense attorney significantly determines what you make per month or year. This is because your area of specialty could bring in more cases than others or even cost more than other areas. For instance, some of the areas you could earn more from include the following.


These are minor offenses or lesser crimes that happen almost every day. As a result, you expect more clients and more money monthly or annually. Some of the misdemeanor cases you can specialize in include disorderly conduct, indecent exposure, loitering, and obstructing justice. You could also specialize in retail and petty theft or even resisting arrest.

White-Collar Crimes

Unlike misdemeanors, these cases rarely happen. However, when they do, the potential of earning much from a single case is higher, considering they involve complicated matters that demand a highly experienced defense attorney. For example, you could handle a case involving fraud and deception, and depending on the amount of money a client lost, they could pay you way more than your average salary to help them out.

Federal Offenses

Like white-collar crimes, handling a single federal offense case could earn you more than dealing with many misdemeanors. With federal offenses, you can work with the government and make more.