Career Outlook: How Much Can I Make as Paralegal and Where Can I Work?
Published on November 29, 2017 by Broadview University
If you’re interested in working side-by-side with attorneys and other legal professionals—but don’t want to go to law school— there’s good news. Paralegals are in demand more than ever before.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, legal occupations as a whole (which includes everything from judges to court reporters) are projected to grow 10 percent between now and 2026, which is much faster than the average occupation. Because of the fast rate of growth in this profession, the BLS also says this means a strong demand for paralegals and legal assistants.
Career Overview: What Does a Paralegal Do?
Paralegals, sometimes called a legal assistant, are vital to any law practice. They perform complex research, gather facts and evidence of cases, draft documents and contracts, create and send correspondence, and help attorneys prepare for meetings and trials. Depending on the size and type of firm, paralegals may also help keep an office organized by handling certain administrative duties. Paralegals may gain on-the-job specialty training, too, as may law firms focus on a certain area, such as family law or bankruptcy. In addition to private practice, paralegals also can work for corporations and government organizations.
Salary Overview: What Do Paralegals Earn in 2017?
Hourly rates and salaries for any profession will vary based on geographic location, years of experience, type of organization, specific or niche industry, and other factors. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics provides a national overview of occupational data, information helpful to anyone looking for an idea of what to expect when entering a new field.
According to the BLS, the median hourly wage for a paralegal and legal assistant in 2017 is $23.80, and the mean annual wage is $49,500. Breaking wages down by industries within the legal profession, paralegals at legal services firm average $24.90 per hour, while those working for the federal government have an hourly mean wage of $32.46 an hour.
Some legal assistants and paralegals may find work within private industries, as many large companies have in-house legal teams. Those working for corporations averaged $31.90 per hour, and some speciality industries have an even higher earning potential. For example, according the the BLS, those working in legal departments of electronic component manufacturing can earn upwards of $40 per hour.
The BLS also offers a chart that shows annual mean wage of paralegals by state. Utah and Wyoming share the same annual mean wage range of $45,530 to $49,160.
Career Outlook: Where Can Paralegals Work?
The BLS reports the demand for paralegals and legal assistants is projected to grow 15 percent through 2026, which is much faster than the average occupation. One of the reasons for this demand is that law firms are looking to reduce billing rates to their clients, and this means relying on paralegals to perform important tasks once done by entry-level lawyers and clerks. Paralegals may also add to the efficiency of law firms’ operations by taking on duties once held by legal support workers.
Private law firms continue to be the largest employer of paralegals and legal assistants. However, as the cost of hiring outside counsel grows, many private companies are building their own in-house legal teams. This opens up opportunities for paralegals to use their skills in health care, manufacturing, consulting, finance, and insurance settings, too.
Paralegals use their skills to contribute to the success of law firms or in-house legal counsel, and, from the data, it’s clear they can find stability and appealing average wages in this career path.
If the idea of supporting clients or corporations with their legal needs appeals to you, consider learning more about Broadview University’s paralegal programs.