How much an experienced lawyer is paid depends on different factors such as the area of law you practice, number of years in practice, location, and position. Attorneys' salaries can range from $60,000 (for public defenders) to $200,000 for Intellectual property attorneys (such as patent attorneys). Also, you are more likely to earn a higher salary as a partner of a large firm or Fortune 500 company than a sole proprietor of a private firm.
Check out http://www1.salary.com/TX/Houston/Attorney-I-salary.html for more info.
You can find the salary information for thousands of jobs in the Occupational Outlook Handbook: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
This is a great tool to learn more about all kids of jobs--it tells you what certain jobs entail, what training you need, as well as the future of the job (are more lawyers going to be needed in the next few years making it a good career choice?) as well as similar jobs.
Here's what it says for lawyers:
The median annual wage for lawyers was $114,970 in May 2014. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $55,400, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $187,200.
Salaries of experienced lawyers vary widely according to the type, size, and location of their employer. Lawyers who own their own practices usually earn less than those who are partners in law firms.
Agree with the above. The pay depends on MANY factors (location, whether you work for a company/law firm/the government/a nonprofit). Some attorneys that work at nonprofits or firms earn as little as $30,000 or $40,000 starting out. Some attorneys that work for big law firms may start out earning $180,000 (very FEW people). Those attorneys at law firms work LONG hours, so the hourly pay may not end up being that much better than someone who earns less but only works 40 hours a week.
Then, as you get more experience you get raises and possibly bonuses (bonuses if you work for a private company). It is hard to say exactly how much you can make because there are so many variables.
Be warned that law school is very expensive (my loans are almost $200,000) and you have to make payments on those loans, so that also affects your take-home pay. For example, I have to pay at minimum $600 per month towards my loans. So $600 of my pay is automatically taken away each month.
Are you interested in being a lawyer? I don't think it is a good idea to go straight to law school from college.
After college, I would recommend going to work for a law firm as a legal assistant or paralegal first. You can get an idea what the practice of law is like, and do that for at least a few years. Become a very good paralegal, and you may want to just do that. You can possibly earn pretty decent money and not be saddled with a ton a debt from law school.
Plus, as a paralegal it is easier to move around and find a job. For a lawyer, it can be difficult often because you have to be licensed in a particular state to practice there. Taking a bar exam is difficult, time-consuming, and expensive, so often that can make someone not want to move again.
It is also good to have real-world experience and earn some money first, if you end up going to law school. Law school is a lot of work and very demanding, I think work experience first was very helpful for me.
You got some good responses above. I just wanted to add that most lawyers I know work an average of 60 hrs. a week. So, on the low end, at $60,000 a year, that comes out to $19 / hr. That's not a lot, when you consider the loans you have to pay back, etc. However, the work is challenging and rewarding!
It is good that you are researching these issues now! Best of luck!