Paralegal Salary By Experience
|Experience Level||Low Hourly||High Hourly||Low Annual||High Annual|
|20 Years +||$17.56||$36.02||$36,520.00||$74,920.00|
A paralegal is a person who is qualified to perform a substantial of legal work for lawyers and solicitors. Through training and education, paralegals, also known as legal assistants, are individuals who are equipped with knowledge of the law and can be tasked with responsibilities that lawyers commonly shoulder. However, a paralegal is not qualified to practice law and dispense legal advice. That said, paralegals are considered to be critical members of a legal team. It is reported that lawyers, solicitors, and other law practicing personnel cannot operate fully and well without their staff of paralegals.
Most responsibilities given to paralegals include research, sorting out relevant facts and materials for a courtroom presentation, preparing legal documents, acquiring affidavits, highlighting significant information in high-profile cases for comparative purposes, and taking notes during a courtroom session. They are basically working hand in hand with lawyers and are often the ones who do most of the preparatory work before a courtroom hearing.
The majority of paralegals are involved in litigation but a significant number are also found in patent and copyright law or real estate and corporate law. Those who are working in community service often provide their expertise to help disadvantaged persons who are in need of legal assistance but cannot afford a lawyer.
Since the paralegal position is described as essential to any law firm, many companies and corporations pay a handsome salary to acquire those who excel in the field. There are currently 252,250 paralegals working in the United States, earning a median paralegal salary of $46,730 a year or roughly $22.47 per hour. The lowest earning 10% of the field are making under $29,390 per annum while the top 10% are paid with an annual paralegal wage of over $75,400 .
The majority of paralegals and legal assistants are employed by companies that provide legal services. In the United States about 183,240 paralegals are employed in law firms, with an average paralegal salary of $47,790 a year, which is slightly below the national average. The second biggest employers are offices with federal designation, where 14,410 paralegals are earning $64,750 every year. Local and state governments also provide many employment opportunities without compromising in salary. The average salary of a paralegal in local government is $50,980 a year while those employed by the state governments are paid more like $44,850 annually, with both figures rising well above the national standards.
Private companies engaging in petroleum and coal product manufacturing are the highest payers. Paralegals working in these sectors are receiving $81,480 a year. Paralegal salary for those working for software publishing companies is also high at $77,520 every year. Corporations engaging in online shopping also provide a very hefty paralegal pay rate at $73,330 per annum. While the numbers can be enticing, getting inside these industries can be quite difficult. For one, the employment opportunities are very limited. Two, only those at the top of their professional game are likely to be offered a spot.
There are several factors that define the paralegal salary; one is the workload typically required by the employer. Another is the level of responsibility and accountability involved with the position. Third is the level of expertise in paralegal work required by the employer.
Obtaining a degree does not necessarily mean one is qualified to be a paralegal. Specific training is required. The paralegal profession, however, can be considered as the ground floor to lawyering.
The widely accepted minimum formal education requirement to become a paralegal in most states is an associate degree from an accredited academic institution recognized by the American Bar Association (ABA). In certain instances, those with no educational background but significant knowledge of the law are promoted to paralegal position, such as legal secretaries. Although some employers do not require an associate degree and prefer to train paralegal candidates while on the job, having a good background and an associate degree will definitely enhance one's chances of getting hired and negotiating a good paralegal's salary.
Certification is voluntary, although strongly favored by most employers. In the United States, there are several organizations that offer certification. Among the most widely recognized groups are the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), American Alliance of Paralegals, and National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA).
Employment projections for paralegals and legal assistants are looking good, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The said government agency predicts a 18% growth within the 2010-2020 decade. The bureau sees this increase as sustainable, at which the pace is slightly faster than average compared to other occupations.
Government offices that provide legal services to poor families, the elderly, and minorities will have a huge demand for paralegals in the future. The need for paralegals will also increase as consumer groups, real estate companies, manufacturing firms, and hospitals or medical organizations will need their expertise on cases such as product liabilities, real estate transactions, and medical malpractice.
While the economic recession has adversely affected many legal assistants, the paralegal profession is still seen as one of the many stable occupations in the United States. There will always be a call for personnel who are experts in law, especially ones who can take some workload off the (higher paid) lawyers. This means paralegals are among those professionals who can still find work even in difficult economic conditions.
Most paralegals often start their careers in law firms. Depending on the legal expertise of their employing law firms, a paralegal is in a position to learn more and become a legal expert. A paralegal working in an environmental law organization is in a good position to learn about environmental law and can use that knowledge to further his position in that company.
Some paralegals decide to pursue a law degree and become professional lawyers. This move has proven to be a good step for many paralegals, as it opens up a variety of lucrative opportunities. Those who decide to stay as a paralegal can also find a career in academics, teaching paralegal programs in colleges and universities. Promotion to a higher position is also very possible for a paralegal. Of course, most promotions come after the individual has been in the industry for an appropriate numbers of years and has acquired significant amount of expertise. Paralegals are often promoted to lead their own team of paralegals and clerical staff. Freelancing is also an option for a highly experienced paralegal.
If you are not sure about becoming a paralegal, you can explore the following related occupations and explore your options:
Becoming a paralegal requires determination and an affinity for law. Since it does not require extensive education, many people are attracted to enter the paralegal profession. In fact, most paralegals are workers who have transferred from other industries. For instance, private investigators with a strong background in criminal law and criminal justice can easily shift from their investigator careers to criminal law paralegals. Nurses who are quite acquainted with medical policies are easily trained to become medical malpractice paralegals.
There is a huge need for paralegals and if you want to find a career that involves the law, this could be the occupation for you.