Civil rights refer to the rights that every US citizen possesses under federal laws. They are laws that ensure everyone can access social opportunities equally and are protected by the law no matter who they are.

In addition, civil rights guarantee protection regardless of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or other factors such as age or disability. Some examples of civil rights are: 

  • The right to vote
  • The right to a fair trial
  • The right to free speech
  • The right to access government services, and
  • The right to public education

Civil rights are different from civil liberties in the sense that the latter is a form of protection from government interference. Conversely, civil rights are established by positive government action.

Because civil rights can be violated, people are sometimes compelled to seek justice. The first step in this process is to consult a civil rights lawyer or attorney. 

In this article, we’ll talk about civil rights law, what it takes to become well-versed in this field, and how high civil rights lawyers’ salaries are.

What Is a Civil Rights Lawyer?

A civil rights lawyer helps protect the civil rights and liberties of individuals granted by the United States Constitution. Civil rights lawyers handle a variety of cases, from unlawful police searches and false arrests to inappropriate conduct and excessive force by law enforcement.

The Civil Rights Lawyer's Role

It should be noted that the terms “lawyer” and “attorney” do not mean the same thing. Namely, anyone who has completed law school and has a Juris Doctor degree is a lawyer, but only becomes an attorney when they have passed the bar exam and are a member of their state’s bar association.

That said, we’ll use the designations civil rights attorney and lawyer interchangeably. However, remember that only an attorney is licensed to practice law, provide legal advice, and represent clients before the court.

The civil rights lawyer’s responsibilities are to fight for their clients’ rights, and ensure that they are treated with justice and equality. Regardless of their client’s race, age, or religion, a civil rights lawyer will seek justice if there has been a violation of rights. 

Civil rights lawyers may also legally represent families with special needs students, in cases where they have been violated, be it by other students, school faculty, or any third party. The process of defending rights usually encompasses tasks such as case research, legal document drafting, and settlement negotiation.

How Much Do Civil Rights Lawyers Make?

A lawyer’s salary can be generous, but it depends on experience and type of employment. The average lawyer's salary in the United States as of 2021 was just over $126,000 annually.

Of course, there are different types of lawyers and a range of incomes. In certain niches, lawyers earn as much as $233,400 annually.

The average civil rights lawyer in the US earns about $61,496 annually. There are regional variations, as a civil rights lawyer would earn the most if they were practicing in San Francisco, earning about $92,746. This is 51% greater than the nationwide average.

How Much Do Civil Rights Lawyers Earn by State?

How much you can make as a civil rights lawyer also depends on your geographic location.

Civil rights lawyer salary by state varies due to certain factors like the demand for that type of service or the state’s cost of living. Below are some civil rights lawyer salaries by location.

A civil rights lawyer in:

  • Fremont, CA makes $92,746
  • Washington, DC makes $82,543
  • Seattle, WA makes $65,857
  • Oklahoma City, OK makes $63,906
  • Toledo, OH makes $63,781
  • Irvine, CA makes $63,353
  • Las Vegas, NV makes $56,594
  • Kansas City, MO makes $56,310
  • New Orleans, LA makes $46,335
  • El Paso, TX makes $37,538

How To Become a Civil Rights Lawyer

In order to earn a civil rights attorney salary, you have to acquire the qualifications necessary to begin working as a civil rights lawyer. With that in mind, first you’ll need to ascertain that you possess the following qualities and soft skills:

  • Strong Moral Code
  • Integrity
  • Trustworthines 
  • Empathy
  • Critical thinking
  • Decisiveness
  • Resilience 
  • Negotiation

When it comes to the requisite hard skills, being well-versed in legal matters and being able to carry out meticulous research, presenting the findings in a compelling manner are advantageous for the position.

If you find that you do have these qualities, that’s when the real work begins. These are the steps you need to take to become a civil rights lawyer:

  1. Earn your bachelor’s degree
  2. Pass the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT)
  3. Complete law school
  4. Pass the bar association exam
  5. Start working as a lawyer

You may decide to commence your career with civil rights lawyer internships to build up your experience. If you already have a career in civil rights law and are looking for new opportunities, these civil rights lawyer jobs may be of interest to you.