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Just how much money can a lawyer make?

Posted by: Laurence Simons 28/10/14

America's richest lawyer has made it into the Forbes list of the wealthiest people in the country. So, just how much money can lawyers make in the US? Judging by the numerous high-profile lawsuits that seem to drag on for something approaching geological periods, rather a lot.

If that seems like a stereotype slightly removed from the reality for countless attorneys, it is definitely true for some. As the Global Post has noted, no less than 35 of the 400 people included on the Forbes 400 list of America's wealthiest people have law degrees.

As it happens, only one of them is currently practising, Joe Jamil Jr. His $1.7 billion (£1.05 billion) fortune arose from the pursuit of personal injury cases in Texas. This led to him representing Pennzoil in a case against Texaco in 1987, where he won $10.5 billion for the firm, pocketing himself a cool $345 million along the way as well as earning himself the moniker of 'the king of torts'. 

Having sued the pants, socks and no doubt cufflinks too off Texaco, he has gone on making a big impact and has reached 373rd on the wealthy list, for which a fortune of $1.55 billion is the entry level.

Mr Jamil has used much of his wealth to help fund philanthropic projects, including the University of Texas system, of which he is a product. In 2012, transcripts of the Pennzoil v Texaco case were acquired by the University of Texas's Tarlton Law Library for the benefit of its students.

Other cash donated by Joe Jamil Jr went into the Lee and Joseph D. Jamail Foundation , which he founded with his late wife in 1986, a year before the case that made his name. This helps fund education, the arts and medical research, with the last of these prompting the Baylor College of Medicine to names its new outpatient clinic the Lee and Joe Jamail Specialty Care Center in their honour last year.

At the age of 88, he is still going strong. Perhaps it's because he has a few bills to pay, but why should he stop when he is clearly having so much fun?