Long-term disability insurance, which pays out if you’re sick or injured and can’t work, is especially important for attorneys. Since many lawyers are high-earners, or still have law-school debt to pay off, long-term disability insurance is an essential tool for financial protection.
Why disability insurance matters for attorneys
Disability insurance is important for attorneys because it protects their incomes in the event that they are temporarily or permanently disabled and have to stop practicing law.
Being a lawyer means you’ve invested years of expensive training in your career, and a long-term disability insurance policy is a way of protecting that investment.
Long-term disability coverage can pay out for years, or even decades, depending on how long your illness or injury keeps you from practicing law. And you can use your disability insurance payments just like you’d use your regular salary, which means you can put it towards:
Law school debt
Groceries and other necessities
Some types of disability insurance even allow lawyers to hold other jobs while continuing to get disability benefits.
What is the best disability insurance for attorneys?
The best disability insurance for attorneys is a long-term policy with a true own-occupation definition of disability. Own-occupation coverage pays benefits if you can’t continue in your original career, even if you can still work another job.
For example, let’s say that after a stroke you can no longer practice law, even though you can still hold a job outside of the legal profession. An own-occupation policy would replace the income you made as a lawyer and allow you to still earn money from an unrelated job.
A disability insurance policy with an any-occupation definition of disability means you’ll only receive benefits if you can no longer work any job at all.
Do attorneys need disability insurance if they have group insurance?
Group disability insurance is usually short-term coverage, which means it only lasts a few months. And any benefits you receive would be taxed if your practice or employer paid for the policy.
Disability insurance riders for attorneys
Disability insurance riders are additions or changes to disability insurance coverage. Here are some disability insurance riders that lawyers should consider:
Cost of living adjustment (COLA): Automatically increases your monthly benefit every year to keep up with inflation.
Future increase rider: Lets you purchase more coverage later on when your income increases without having to go through another medical exam.
Non-cancelable/guaranteed premiums: Guarantees coverage at the same rates as long as you continue to make payments on time.
Partial disability benefit: Pays out if you’re not fully disabled, but still lose some income because of an injury or illness.
Presumptive disability benefit: Pays benefits without a waiting period if you lose the use of your hands, feet, or speech.
Retirement protection: Replaces the retirement contributions you would have made while you worked.
Student loan rider: Continues making your law school payments while you’re disabled.
Cost of disability insurance for lawyers
The cost of disability insurance for lawyers depends on their age, health, hobbies, and income. The more money you make as an attorney, the more disability insurance coverage you need, which means higher rates.
Disability insurance generally costs about 1% to 3% of your annual income. The median pay for lawyers is $127,990, which means you can expect to pay between $106 to $320 a year for disability insurance. 
Are graded premiums a good idea for lawyers?
If you’re a current law student or an early-career lawyer who’s still paying off law school debt, you may want to consider a disability insurance policy with graded premiums instead of level premiums.
Graded premiums mean you pay lower rates earlier on in the policy, and your disability insurance gets more expensive as you age.
The upside of having graded premiums instead of premiums that stay one price is that you don’t have to go without disability insurance while your pay is low. When your rates get higher later in life, you’ll be able to afford the cost increase.
Best disability insurance companies for lawyers
The best disability insurance companies for lawyers are companies that have experience covering high earners. These companies are most likely to have useful riders for lawyers (like riders for cost of living adjustments, future increase, and retirement protection).
Some of the best disability insurance companies for lawyers are:
A.M. Best rating
What we like about it …
Includes a survivor benefit for your beneficiary.
Offers lifetime continuous benefits for total disabilities, even after the policy expires.
Offers a future insurability rider that's good until your 60th birthday.
Offers a lump-sum payment of $62,400 in addition to regular benefits if you're presumptively disabled.
Includes a family care benefit if you have to take time off to care for a sick loved one.
How to get disability insurance for lawyers
Attorneys can find disability insurance that meets their needs by following these seven steps: