Paralegal Salaries

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With rising caseloads, changing client dynamics, and pressure to deliver cost-effective legal services– more than ever law firms require a legal support staff that can meet an evolving, increasingly demanding environment. Paralegals play a crucial role to the success of the legal team. Their expertise frees up attorney’s schedules, reduces legal fees, and expedites processes.

*Whether you’re looking to earn an undergraduate degree in preparation for the Certified Paralegal Exam, or ready to advance your career with a master's degree in legal studies, accredited online programs make it easier than ever to get the education you need:

Washington University School of Law offers an online Master of Legal Studies (MLS) program. This 12-month master's degree allows paralegals to gain in-depth knowledge of US Law. The program can be completed without relocating or leaving your job. No GRE or LSAT scores required.

It comes as no surprise then that today’s paralegals enjoy multiple job offers, competitive salaries and benefits, and even signing bonuses. In an attempt to build their legal teams and prepare for future growth, employers are also offering these legal professionals greater work flexibility, career advancement opportunities, and plenty of perks.

According to the Robert Half 2016 Salary Guide, which surveyed 200 lawyers among the largest law firms and corporations in the U.S., the demand for paralegals extends beyond the traditional law firm setting. Financial, healthcare, and real estate companies are now snagging talented legal assistants to fill important roles related to managing legal processes.

Law firms and attorneys favor paralegals with a wide range of knowledge in areas like compliance, contract and lease administration, labor and employment disputes, and executive compensation. This has been intensifying competition for talented paralegals and driving up salaries. According to the Robert Half 2016 Salary Guide, 64 percent of lawyers report having challenges finding skilled paralegals.

According to the 2016 Salary Guide, the practice areas expected to generate the greatest number of high-paying paralegal jobs in the next two years include:

  • Litigation – 33 percent
  • General business/commercial law – 26 percent
  • Commercial law – 7 percent
  • Healthcare – 6 percent
  • Real estate – 6 percent

Salaries, Bonuses, and Total Compensation: Breaking Down Paralegal Salaries

The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) conducted a national survey of paralegals in 2014 that showed the billing rate and compensation differences among today’s paralegals.

According to the NALA survey, paralegals billed an average $125/hour in 2014, increasing about 5 percent from 2012. The total average compensation for paralegals was $58,410 in 2014, an increase of 8 percent ($57,388) from 2012. Total compensation in 2014 included an average salary of $55,188 and an average bonus of $4,581.

Salary by Years of Experience

The NALA survey also broke down annual average salaries for paralegals by years of experience and compared them with average salaries from 2012.

Paralegals with 21-25 years of experience saw the largest increase in annual compensation (13 percent) between 2012 and 2014, followed by paralegals with more than 25 years of experience (8 percent) and those with 1-5 years of experience (6 percent):

Years of Experience: 2014 Annual Compensation | 2012 Annual Compensation

  • 1-5 years: $41,150 | $38,867
  • 6-10 years: $52,061 | $54,484
  • 12-15 years: $57,051 | $54,347
  • 16-20 years: $61,622 | $58,952
  • 21-25 years: $65,393 | $64,442
  • Over 25 years: $58,410 | $56,295

Salary by Educational Level

NALA also broke down the average compensation for paralegals according to their level of education:

  • Undergraduate certificate: $60,822
  • Post-baccalaureate certificate: $59,818
  • Associate degree: $56,087
  • Bachelor’s degree: $53,384
  • Master’s degree: $56,650
  • Other: $64,126
  • None: $59,790

Salary by Region

The NALA survey found that paralegal salaries varied slightly based on the region of the country in which they were employed. Paralegals on the West Coast earned the highest average salary in 2014 at $63,744, followed closely by paralegals in New England and the Eastern U.S., who earned an average of $63,396 that year.

The average paralegal compensation for other regions of the U.S. in 2014 are shown here:

  • Great Lakes Region: $55,223
  • Plains States: $56,211
  • Southeast: $56,123
  • Southwest: $61,097
  • Rocky Mountains: $60,621

Salary by Specialty Area of Practice

NALA reported salaries (total compensation) for paralegals by specialty area of practice. As of 2014, paralegals reported the highest salaries when specializing in the following areas:

  • Mergers/Acquisitions: $67,044
  • Securities/Anti-trust: $65,997
  • Tax: $63,425
  • Corporate: $63,285
  • Intellectual Property: $62,680
  • Contract: $61,370
  • Banking/Finance: $60,996
  • Employee Benefits: $59,625
  • Multi-State Litigation: $59,426
  • Energy/Utility: $59,345
  • Legislation/Lobbying: $59,326
  • Product Liability: $59,248
  • Administrative/Government/Public: $58,964
  • Immigration: $58,845
  • Mass Tort Litigation: $58,670
  • Employee Labor Law: $58,538

Paralegal Salary Trends Seen in Law Firms

The 2016 Salary Guide organized law firm paralegal salaries by the size of the firms they work in:

  • Large – 75+ lawyers
  • Midsize – 35-75 lawyers
  • Small/midsize – 10-35 lawyers
  • Small – up to 10 lawyers

The following shows how salaries changed for paralegals year over year from 2015 to 2016:

Senior/Supervising Paralegal Salaries

All surveyed law firms reported salary increases for senior/supervising paralegals between 2015 and 2016, with small/midsize firms reporting the largest increase of 4 percent, followed closely by small law firms at 3.7 percent, midsize law firms at 3.4 percent, and large law firms at 2.9 percent:

  • Large Law Firms – 2015: $66,750-$95,500 | 2016: $70,250-$96,750
  • Midsize Law Firms – 2015: $64,500-$81,250 | 2016: $67,500-$83,250
  • Small/Midsize Law Firms – 2015: $58,250-$71,750 | 2016: $61,750-$73,500
  • Small Law Firms – 2015: $49,250-$66,250 | 2016: $51,500-$68,250

Midlevel Paralegal Salaries

Midlevel paralegals also saw significant increases in salaries between 2015 and 2016, ranging from 2.7 percent in midsize law firms to 3.5 percent in small/midsize firms:

  • Large Law Firms – 2015: $59,500-$72,750 | 2016: $61,750-$74,750
  • Midsize Law Firms – 2015: $55,750-$73,000 | 2016: $58,500-$73,750
  • Small/Midsize Law Firms – 2015: $51,250-$64,250 | 2016: $54,500-$65,000
  • Small Law Firms – 2015: $43,000-$58,500 | 2016: $44,750-$60,250

Junior Paralegal Salaries

Reflecting those salaries of midlevel and senior paralegals, junior paralegals enjoyed an increase in salary between 2015 and 2016. Junior paralegals in small/midsize law firms saw the largest increase at 3.6 percent, followed by those in large law firms (3.0 percent), small law firms (2.8 percent), and midsize law firms (2.0 percent):

  • Large Law Firms – 2015: $43,750-$57,000 | 2016: $44,250-$59,500
  • Midsize Law Firms – 2015: $42,500-$56,750 | 2016: $43,750-$57,500
  • Small/Midsize Law Firms – 2015: $39,000-$50,250 | 2016: $40,250-$52,250
  • Small Law Firms – 2015: $36,250-$43,750 | 2016: $37,750-$44,500

Salary Trends Among In-House Paralegals Working in the Corporate Setting

The 2016 Salary Guide organized in-house paralegal salaries by company size:

  • Large company – $250+ million in revenue
  • Midsize company – $25 million-$250 million in revenue
  • Small company – up to $25 million in revenue

The following shows how salaries for paralegals at all levels working for cororations changed year over year from 2015 to 2016:

Senior/Supervising Paralegal Salaries

In-house senior/supervising paralegals earned more than their law firm counterparts during the same period, although increases in salary were slightly less, at about 3.1 percent overall:

  • Large company – 2015: $71,250-$96-250 | 2016: $74,500-$98,000
  • Midsize company – 2015: $64,750-$86,000 | 2016: $67,250-$88,250
  • Small company – 2015: $60,500-$75,250 | $62,750-$77,500

Midlevel Paralegal Salaries

Midlevel paralegals for large companies saw the largest salary increase between 2015 and 2016, at 3.4 percent, although midlevel paralegals in midsize companies saw an impressive 2.9 percent salary increase and midlevel paralegals in small companies saw an increase of 2.7 percent during the same period:

  • Large company – 2015: $58,250-$74,750 | 2016: $60,000-$77,500
  • Midsize company – 2015: $54,500-$66,000 | 2016: $55,750-$68,250
  • Small company – 2015: $50,750-$60,500 | $52,000-$62,250

Junior Paralegal Salaries

Overall, in-house junior paralegals earned more than junior paralegals in law firms, starting at a salary of about $49,250 for a large company, versus $43,750 for a large law firm. Between 2015 and 2016, junior paralegals in large companies saw a salary increase of 2.8 percent, followed by midsize companies at 2.7 percent, and small companies at 2.2 percent:

  • Large company – 2015: $49,250-$59,000 | 2016: $50,000-$61,250
  • Midsize company – 2015: $45,500-$55,250 | 2016: $46,500-$57,000
  • Small company – 2015: $41,250-$51,000 | $41,750-$52,500
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