Who are five of the richest lawyers in the world? + Lawyer Salary FAQs (UK/US Edition)

by Five Fantastic Lawyers™ on September 22, 2023

In this piece, we’ll examine how some of the world’s wealthiest attorneys amassed their fortunes. We’ll also provide some thoughts on some of the most frequently asked lawyer salary questions that budding law students, law graduates and trainee solicitors, pupil barristers going through pupillage and attorney interns might be wanting to know.

Our Editor was once a lawyer in a top corporate law firm and has come across a fair share of stories of lawyer wealth. Indeed our Editor recalls a friend’s dad helping their daughter with her research into what area of law she should specialise at a fairly early stage in law school so that she could line up appropriate summer placements and then apply for the best traineeships / training contracts – as it happens, some of the research and thoughts below were in the area that said person pursued for her legal career.

So, in addition to all the other fantastic top rated lawyers and other featured lawyers & legal professionals (see our pricing here) on our site, here we look into who some of the richest lawyers in the world are, together with salary information in respect of lawyers and attorneys. Please note that most of this information is relevant to a UK and US audience but hopefully useful for other readers too.

Richest Lawyer Salaries

Any lawyers in the Forbes list of wealthiest individuals?

To start with, it’s worth noting that the top ten annual Forbes list of the wealthiest individuals in the world does not include anyone from the legal industry. While it is true that the legal profession is one of the highest-paying professions, each lawyer’s net worth varies dependent on a variety of factors.

What factors affect a lawyer’s wealth?

While lawyers are generally well-paid and, indeed, law is one of the highest-paying professions, some lawyers have accumulated fortunes that most of us can only imagine.

Typically, a lawyer’s fortune depends on the country in which they practise, the universities from which they graduated, the law firm for which they work, and, of course, their experience.

The fact that the highest-paid attorneys in the world are hired to represent wealthy celebrities, such as politicians, artists, and businessmen, has led to their recognition as prominent lawyers worldwide.

Becoming the world’s wealthiest attorney

So who is the world’s wealthiest attorney? On the surface, the question appears to be quite straightforward. However, the answer really depends on the perspective from which you approach the query.

While some of the wealthiest attorneys have amassed their fortune through business ventures in addition to their legal career, others have amassed their fortune solely through winning cases for their clients.

Here, we will identify some of the world’s wealthiest attorneys and discuss how they amassed their fortunes.

Who are the richest lawyers in the world?

In no particular order, five of the world’s top richest lawyers are Charlie Munger, Wichai Thongta, Richard Scruggs, William “Bill” Lerach and Joe Jamail. There are many others although we’ll look at these five in more detail below:-

1. Charlie Munger

With an estimated net worth of over $2 billion, Charlie Munger was one of the wealthiest lawyers in the globe. He was a Harvard Law School graduate who accumulated a substantial fortune.

A business lawyer in America, he was well-known in the business world for being Warren Buffet’s business partner at Berkshire Hathaway. Buffet is one of the very richest individuals in the world.

Charlie sadly passed away on 28 November 2023.

2. Wichai Thongta

He was born in Thailand and also has a fortune of over $2 billion, making him another of the wealthiest lawyers in the world and one of the world’s most prominent attorneys.

He graduated from Thammasat University and practised corporate law on behalf of some of Thailand’s most influential executives and corporations, although his reputation in the sector grew substantially in 2001, when he won the case of concealment of assets in which Thaksin Shinawatra was accused and who was represented by Thongtang.

Work in corporate law piqued Thongtang’s interest in business, and he began investing in a variety of companies. His business acumen enabled him to become the chief executive officer of a number of companies in Thailand, including healthcare companies such as E For L Aim and Bangkok Dusit.

While Thongtang has an estimated $2 billion+ in wealth, he amassed the majority of his fortune through investments, not his legal career.

3. Richard Scruggs

Sometimes known as the “King of Torts”, Scruggs received a degree from the University of Texas. Later, he became the highest-paid attorney in the United States and was designated the top personal injury attorney in Texas and in the country for seven consecutive years by the National Law Journal.

He is one of the wealthiest attorneys who has garnered his fortune through a legal career. Scruggs is estimated to have a net worth of over $1.7 billion, despite being disbarred as a lawyer.

After graduating from the University of Mississippi School of Law in 1976, he first came to the public’s attention when he effectively defended Pascagoula shipyard workers against the asbestos industry after they became ill.

In the 1990s, he assisted the State of Mississippi in filing a lawsuit against tobacco companies in an effort to recover tobacco-related healthcare expenses. In 2005, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, he represented victims of the event against insurance companies.

4. William “Bill” Lerach

William “Bill” Lerach is a law school graduate of the University of Pittsburgh who specialises in securities class action litigation. T

He is best known for successfully pursuing a securities class action lawsuit against Enron that resulted in the largest settlement in U.S. history, totalling $7.2 billion.

In 2007, Lerach was convicted of obstructing justice and was sentenced to two years in prison and disbarred by the California State Bar. His net worth is approximately over $900 million.

5. Joe Jamail

Even though Joe Jamail passed away in 2015, he was also known sometimes as the “King of Torts. At the time of his passing, he was one of the wealthiest practising attorneys, with an estimated net worth of approximately $1.7 billion.

In 1985, he successfully represented Pennzoil against Texaco in a litigation, for which he earned $335 million. This was his most famous case.

Lawyers amassing extraordinary wealth, but not all through law?

During their careers, a number of the world’s top lawyers have amassed extraordinary wealth. However, lawyers are frequently able to increase their net worth by investing in businesses in addition to practising law as can be seen from some of the examples of some of the richest lawyers above.

Does practising law make one a millionaire?

Not necessarily and indeed many of the richest lawyers actually make their money from business and investment interests. For instance, they could earn money from business ventures related to their legal practise, such as speaking at conferences, publishing a book, or investing in securities and companies. This supplemental income is frequently what enables a lawyer to become a millionaire or, in some select cases, a billionaire.

Which sort of attorney is compensated the most?

Corporate lawyers in ‘Big Law’ are some of the best compensated lawyers. In addition, patent attorneys are highly compensated and receive one of the highest median salaries in the legal profession. These legal professionals provide patent advice to clients so that their clients can obtain patents from patent offices around the world.

Who is the highest compensated type of lawyer in the UK?

Corporate and commercial lawyers in top city law firms are some of the highest compensated lawyers int the UK – particularly those working for ‘magic circle law firms’. Corporate law is the most lucrative legal speciality, with a national average salary of £70,850 per year for corporate solicitors. Corporate lawyers represent organisations and may also work directly for an organisation as what are called ‘in-house lawyers’.

Who are the wealthiest British barristers?

Graham Aaronson QC, Michael Flesch QC, and David Goldberg QC are, according to the Legal 500, some of the highest-earning barristers and solicitors, with estimated earnings of over $1.25 million per year each.

How much do the top types of lawyers earn in the US?

Highest Paying Legal Specialties in the US include the following thanks to research from Forbes on these example lawyer salaries:-

  • Chief legal officer: $89,000-$232,000.
  • Health care attorney salaries range between $79,000 and $193,500.
  • Patent attorneys earn between $95,500 and $179,000 annually.
  • Corporate counsel: between $111,000 and $174,500.
  • Employment attorney salaries range from $101,000 to $154,000.
  • The salary range for a contract attorney is $72,500 to $155,000.
  • Tax attorney salaries range from $84,000 to $143,500.

You can read more on this point in Forbes’ insights on ‘How much do lawyers make?’

Are lawyers in London better paid than those outside of London?

By moving to London, you may be able to significantly increase your compensation, as solicitors there earn more than in any other city in the UK on average. In London, the average annual compensation for a lawyer is £55,897, which is over £10,000 higher than the national average.

Are UK lawyers paid well? Average British Solicitor Salary Insights

Mid-career solicitors with 4 to 9 years of experience earn an average annual salary of £47,600, while an attorney with 10 to 20 years of experience earns an average annual salary of £78,950. On average, solicitors with over 20 years of experience earn £98,600 per year.

What is the average UK compensation for a lawyer?

Beginning compensation at large City firms can range between £68,000 and £100,000 on average and in some cases well above £150k – we’d recommend you follow Legal Cheek’s Lawyer Salary News for examples. In other parts of the country, starting salaries for newly-qualified solicitors in private practice typically range between £28,000 and £68,000. You can anticipate your salary to increase annually as you acquire experience.

Why are solicitors so highly paid?

As with everything else, the supply and demand of the market determines lawyer salaries. Since 2000, the average hourly rate charged by prominent law firm partners has nearly doubled, while average hourly wages for both blue-collar and white-collar workers have risen by less than 20%.

Which sort of lawyers earns the least amount of money?

Typically, the lowest-paying legal positions are in the public sector, such as district attorneys and public defenders in America. In the UK, low-level crime defence lawyers and legal aid lawyers are among some of the lowest earners. Indeed, some solicitors in these positions may earn just above minimum wage.

Where are the highest-paid lawyers in the US located?

Although it is common knowledge that lawyers earn high compensation, salary ranges vary depending on the city in which you practise. California lawyers receive the highest pay, but the cost of living is also higher, so these factors need to be considered.

What GCSEs are required for law school and to become a lawyer in England & Wales?

Because of the immense competition, usually top grades are required. A minimum of five GCSEs, including level 4 or C grades in maths, English and science, is typically required to study law at the A-level level. In addition to relevant A-levels, many universities also require a certain number of GCSEs at the A*-C level.

How much does a law firm’s designated partner earn?

The average national salary for a partner at a law firm is £69,789 per year. Profit sharing, which averages an additional £27,880 per year in London but can reach over £200,000 in some instances, is an example of supplementary compensation that can be added to this.

How much is a UK lawyer?

Examples of UK lawyer charges are as follows:-

  • Simple settlement with early agreement – £500 to £800
  • Case requiring mediation or further negotiations- £1,500 to £2,800
  • Court proceedings £4,000 to £10,000 or more – depends on the facts and circumstances of the case.
  • Lawyer hourly rates can vary significantly depending on the type of lawyer and case/matter e.g. from £50 per hour to £1000+ per hour.

Are solicitors in demand in the United Kingdom?

A slight increase in the number of lawyers in 2021 compared to 2020 was a further positive indicator for the British legal market. This indicates some advances in productivity, as demand increased by a greater percentage than the number of solicitors required to handle the increase.

Are solicitors in Australia well compensated?

Generally yes – solicitors in Australia are well-compensated. In Australia, the average annual salary for Lawyer positions ranges between $80,000 and $100,000.

What is the greatest hourly rate for a lawyer?

Partner at Kirkland & Ellis, Kirk Radke, tops the list as one of the country’s most expensive lawyers. The private equity and corporate attorney’s hourly rate is $1,250. Large billers tend to concentrate in finance-related law firm departments.

How much do lawyers earn after law school?

Beginning Salaries for Law Graduates after Law School – The aggregate median private sector salary for lawyers reported by the 183 ranked law schools for their 2020 classes was $80,000, with a range of $48,000 to $180,000.

How much is a British lawyer compensated per month?

How much does a lawyer in the United Kingdom earn? In the United Kingdom, the average annual compensation for a lawyer is £50,000, or £25.64 per hour. Entry-level positions begin at £40,559 per year, whereas the majority of experienced employees earn up to £78,000 annually.

How much does a leading Harvard attorney earn?

Law School Rankings by Median Salary:-

  • Harvard University $180,000
  • University of New York $180,000
  • University of California-Berkeley $180,000
  • University of Texas at Austin $180,000

See https://www.ilrg.com/rankings/law/median for further information on the above US law school lawyer graduate average salaries.

How much do leading law firms pay their lawyers?

For first and second year lawyer wages at the following firms, the average amounts have recently respectively been as follows:-

  • Allen & Overy $202,500- $205,000 ; $215,000
  • Cahill $205,000 ; $215,000
  • Clifford Chance $205,000 ; $205,000
  • Gibson Dunn $205,000 ; $215,000
  • Latham & Watkins $205,000 ; $215,000

See https://www.lawyer-monthly.com/2022/03/what-are-the-highest-paying-law-firms/ for further information on the above law firms’ annual wage amounts.

A fair share of financially successful attorneys

The legal profession has produced its fair share of financially successful attorneys, with some accumulating fortunes that dwarf the average lawyer’s income. While the legal industry is renowned for its generous compensation, it is essential to note that Forbes’ list of the wealthiest people in the world does not typically include lawyers. Despite this, there are solicitors and attorneys who have achieved exceptional financial success through a variety of methods.

In determining an attorney’s net worth, factors such as country of practise, educational background, law firm affiliation, and years of experience play a significant role. In addition, representing prominent clients such as politicians, artists, and industrialists has contributed to the worldwide recognition and prominence of certain attorneys.

World's Richest Lawyers Top Salaries

The path to becoming the wealthiest lawyer in the world

There is no one path to becoming the wealthiest lawyer in the world and, as can be seen from the above, it varies from person to person. Others have prioritised winning high-stakes cases for their clients, while others have diversified their income streams through business ventures in addition to their legal professions. The ability to navigate complex legal matters, negotiate advantageous agreements, and provide invaluable advice has propelled these attorneys to the pinnacle of their profession financially.

By analysing the biographies of these affluent attorneys, we gain a better understanding of the diverse strategies and approaches that have led to their impressive wealth.

Their achievements remind us that although financial success is attainable in the legal profession, it requires a combination of exceptional skills, strategic thinking, and a comprehensive understanding of the law.

Please note that this article is a work in progress and any further insights or information to expand on this would be much appreciated. And thanks for reading – hopefully some readers will this useful for their legal careers in years to come.

Five Fantastic Lawyers™
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