Paralegals work in many different professional environments in areas all around the United States. Paralegals can work in private law firms, for federal and state governmental organizations, in insurance companies, and as part of large corporations. The paralegal profession is very diverse as people of many different ages and experiential backgrounds are employed as paralegals. If you are interested in making a career change or pursuing a career as a paralegal, there are many important factors to research. One of the most important factors when looking at any profession is your potential salary. If you are going to put time and effort into a paralegal education, it is good to see how that time and money will pay off in the end if you secure a paralegal position.
How Much Do Paralegals Make?
The average pay for paralegals varies for many reasons. Different areas of the country pay paralegals at a different rate. Pay also varies from firm to firm, and with different fields of law. It is impossible to predict what your potential paralegal salary will be, but this article will give you some information on averages and ranges for paralegal salaries to help you get a feel for the possibilities.
According to May 2015 data from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the mean annual wage for paralegals and legal assistants all around the country was $52,390 per year or $25.19 per hour. The titles of paralegal and legal assistant generally refer to the same position within most law firms. Some parts of the country favor the term paralegal while others more commonly use legal assistant.
Average Paralegal Salary
The average paralegal salary was $52,390 in 2015, as reported by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS). According to US Census information from 2014, the median household income in America was $53,657. Household income takes into account all working members of a household, so the average salary for one individual paralegal is very close to the median income of many American households. The top 10% of paralegal earners made an average of $79,010 while the bottom 10% made $30,670. This is a national average and will vary depending on geographic location and experience level.
Entry Level Paralegal or Legal Assistant Salary
If you have recently graduated with your paralegal degree or received a paralegal certificate and are looking for a job, you are most likely going to be looking at entry level positions. While possible, it is rare for law firms to hire recent graduates for more upper level paralegal positions like senior paralegal or office manager. Although you may have received a thorough paralegal education, there are some aspects of being a paralegal which can only be learned through experience.
Getting a job without prior experience may be difficult, and you may find yourself sending out a lot of resumes before getting any call backs or interviews. If you have internship or prior work experience in the legal field or any related positions, be sure to highlight that on your resume. Also be sure to show future employers that you are self-motivated, willing to learn, and excited to bring your skills to the position.
Entry level paralegal salaries vary within a wide range. According to the website PayScale.com, the average salary for an entry level paralegal is $38,734 per year. The range of entry level salaries for paralegals goes from $25,241 to $52,259. There is no way of knowing exactly what your future salary may be as an entry level paralegal, but it may also be helpful to look at data specific to your location to determine what the averages are in your area. Continue reading below for information on average salaries in several major US metropolitan areas.
Other Entry Level Legal Salaries
As a recent graduate of paralegal school, you may find it difficult to find a paralegal position right away. There may not be many openings in your area or there may simply be too many qualified candidates for the number of positions available. If you are offered a different type of job at a law firm, such as paralegal assistant, legal administrative assistant, or legal secretary, you may choose to take it in order to begin to gain experience in the legal field. If a paralegal job is not available, getting one of the positions mentioned above can be a great first step on your career path towards becoming a paralegal. Working closely alongside lawyers and paralegals as a paralegal assistant or legal secretary can help you gain the experience you need to obtain a paralegal job. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the average annual salary for a legal secretary is $46,470. The top 10% earn an average of $72,890, while the bottom 10% earns around $26,760 on average.
Paralegal Salaries for Different Fields
There are many different fields of specialization within the legal profession. Just as lawyers focus on practicing different types of law, paralegals too often have specific fields of specialization. Each different type of paralegal has differing job tasks and often a different rate of pay. Some of the most common specialized paralegal fields are listed below and include brief job descriptions as well as potential salary information.
Litigation Paralegal Salary: Litigation is the process of defending against or bringing a lawsuit and, in some cases, bringing a case to trial. A litigation paralegal would likely have job duties such as: conducting initial investigations, assisting with drafting pleadings for filing, research, keeping a trial calendar, and document organization, exhibition, and filing. According to PayScale.com, the average mean salary for a litigation paralegal is around $50,000 per year. Other salary reporting sites confirm that the average salary for a litigation paralegal is between $40,000 and $60,000.
Real Estate Paralegal Salary: Real Estate paralegals work in offices that handle commercial or private real estate transactions. They often assist with drafting closing documents and contracts, collaborating with title companies, attending real estate closings, and researching land zoning and survey issues. PayScale.com lists the average real estate paralegal salary as approximately $48,500 annually.
Corporate Paralegal Salary: Corporate paralegals can work in a variety of environments. Some attorneys specialize in the practice of corporate law, so corporate paralegals can be employed at that particular type of firm. Corporate paralegals also work within the legal department of large corporations. Some are employed by private businesses while others work for hospitals or insurance companies. Corporate paralegals often work to assist with contracts or business mergers and acquisitions, and may also have a hand in preparing the filings and documents for corporate litigation. Because there are so many different types of jobs available for the corporate paralegal, an average salary may be misleading. Most sites which list average paralegal salaries put the corporate paralegal average around $50,000, but it can vary widely depending on job type and location.
Immigration Paralegal Salary: Paralegals who wish to specialize in immigration law may work with an attorney who assists with immigration proceedings or for a nonprofit who works directly with immigrants to provide legal support. Immigration paralegals will perform many of the same job duties as other paralegals, but they will also have some additional functions which may include arranging documentation for visas and immigration applications, or assisting with the citizenship and immigration process. The average immigration paralegal salary according to glassdoor.com is approximately $46,000 per year.
Senior Paralegal Salary: A Senior paralegal is often in charge of the other paralegals in their department or law firm. Because the senior paralegal is given more responsibility, they are usually more experienced and have a higher level of legal expertise and education. A senior paralegal’s job duties may include supervising paralegals or administrative assistants, overseeing firm calendars and filing systems, working directly with attorneys to provide necessary assistance, and communicating with clients. PayScale.com places the median senior paralegal salary at $66,079. Salary for a senior paralegal will vary depending upon the size of the law firm, job experience, and education level.
Regional Paralegal Salary
The pay for paralegals changes from region to region. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the areas with the highest average paralegal salaries are the District of Columbia, Alaska, California, New York, and Washington. The average annual paralegal salaries for some of the most popular metropolitan locations are as follows:
San Francisco, CA: $72,310
Los Angeles, CA: $59,260
San Diego, CA: $58,710
Miami, FL: $58,250
Chicago, IL: $51,700
New York City, NY: $61,150
Washington DC/Alexandria, VA: $69,560
Houston, TX: $56,690
Boston, MA: $53,510
Newark, NJ: $62,680
Seattle, WA: $62,630