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Paralegal Salaries

With mounting caseloads, changing client dynamics, and pressure to deliver cost-effective legal services, more than ever, law firms are leaning on their legal support staff to make it all work. From freeing up an attorney’s time to reducing legal fees to expediting processes and ensuring accuracy, paralegals aren’t a luxury to the law firms and businesses that rely on them, they’re a necessity.

In law firms, financial institutions, healthcare companies, real estate firms, and every other type of organization where legal services are part of everyday business, paralegals have stepped out of the back offices to take their position front and center among the most valuable professionals on the team.

And while their role is supportive in nature, they’re no one’s secretary. The valuable skillset they bring to the table and the important role they serve in facilitating legal processes has made them indispensable assets who command competitive salaries, benefits, and even signing bonuses.

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What is a Paralegal Salary?

Paralegal Pay and Job Market Data by Region

State-by-State Paralegal Salary Guide

 


What is a Paralegal Salary? Average Paralegal Salary Trends in Law Firms, Government, and In-House with Corporate Employers

In an effort to entice top talent, attorneys are offering paralegals a greater level of flexibility, including remote work options, along with more career advancement opportunities, and more impressive perks than ever before. So it always pays to come to the table with a resume that includes a solid post-secondary education, professional certification, and a wide range of office skills and legal knowledge.

While the profession has no specific requirements for practice, today’s highly qualified paralegals hold an associate’s or bachelor’s degree or post-bachelor’s certificate, and are often completing those paralegal degree and certificate programs online. Standard institutional accreditation provides the assurance that you’re looking at a quality program that meets U.S. Department of Education standards, and some schools take that a step further by becoming institutional members of the American Association for Paralegal Education or by going through the American Bar Association (ABA) approval process.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), paralegals earned an average salary of $56,610 as of May 2020. At the lower end of the pay scale (10th – 25th percentile), paralegals earned between $32,000 – $40,640 during this time and likely represent starting offers for those with little experience in the field.

At the top of the pay scale (75th – 90th percentile), paralegals earned in the range of $67,080 to $85,160, and likely represent those with extensive experience, one or more industry certification, and knowledge in specialty areas like compliance, contract and lease administration, labor and employment disputes, and executive compensation.

Paralegal Salaries in Law Firms

No surprise here—the lion’s share of paralegals (nearly 257,000 as of May 2020) in the nation are employed in law firms. However, some of the highest salaries were found in other sectors.

As of May 2020, paralegals working in law firms earned an average salary of $54,200.

Of course, larger law firms with a regional or even national reach can offer higher salaries and more opportunities for advancement.

Paralegal Salaries in Governmental Agencies

Employing about 15,000 paralegals, the federal government remains one of the larger employers of paralegals in the U.S. Those jobs also come with strong salaries. As of May 2020, paralegals working in federal agencies earned an average salary of $72,930 – or nearly $20,000 more, on average, than those working in law firms.

Paralegal jobs with the federal government are found in all agencies, from the Department of Homeland Security to the Department of Labor to the Department of Health and Human Services and beyond.

Paralegals working in state governmental agencies earned an average salary of $51,390 in 2020, while paralegals working in local government earned an average of $57,130 during this time.

Paralegal Salaries in Corporations

Although there are fewer paralegals employed in corporate legal departments than in law firms and governmental agencies, some of the highest salaries for these legal professionals are found in corporate America.

Corporations involved in the management of companies and enterprises are the largest employer of paralegals in the corporate law sector. Employing about 7,000 paralegals as of May 2020, this sector also reported a strong average paralegal salary of $74,390, which closely reflects what those working for federal agencies are earning.

But in terms of pay, merchant wholesalers in non-durable goods (they run the gamut from food to clothes to paper products) can’t be beat. Paralegals here earn an average salary of $134,210, making it the highest paying industry for these professionals. Other top-paying industries for paralegals working in private business include:

  • Land subdivision (i.e., property development): $90,360
  • Semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing: $85,440
  • Natural gas distribution: $84,300
  • Other investment pools and funds: $76,560
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Paralegal Pay and Job Market Data by Region

Impressive opportunities in the paralegal profession abound and are expected to continue well into the future. In fact, the number of paralegal jobs is projected to increase by 11% between 2019 and 2029 – that’s nearly three times greater than the national average job growth rate of 4% during this time.

During the current ten-year period ending in 2029, about 37,600 annual paralegal job openings are expected throughout the country as a result of new job growth, and normal turnover resulting from retirement and career progression.

Between 2018 and 2028, the states expected to see the biggest increase in the number of paralegal jobs are:

  • Arizona: 21.5% increase
  • Nevada: 24.3%
  • Texas: 25.6%
  • Utah: 20.9%
  • Colorado: 27%
  • South Carolina: 17.8%
  • South Dakota: 19.6%
  • Washington D.C.: 17.6%

As expected, as of May 2020, the largest states in the nation (by population) were also home to the largest number of paralegal jobs:

  • Florida: 33,760 paralegal jobs
  • California: 33,490
  • Texas: 27,630
  • New York: 27,540
  • Illinois: 13,320

The states posting the highest average salaries for paralegals as of May 2020 had some of the highest costs of living and were home to some of the biggest metro regions where, of course, business and industry thrive:

  • Washington D.C.: $83,330
  • California: $66,250
  • Washington: $63,050
  • Colorado: $62,950
  • New York: $62,530

The average salary for paralegals in Washington D.C. rose far above what was seen in the rest of the nation, coming in at nearly $30,000 more than the national average for this profession. It probably doesn’t come as much surprise that there’s a lot of legal work to be done in a place that is home to the federal government and the center of American legislation.

The top-paying metro regions for paralegals according to average salary include:

  • Napa, CA: $93,110
  • San Jose (also includes Sunnyvale and Santa Clara), CA: $90,280
  • Trenton, NJ: $77,970
  • San Francisco (also includes Oakland and Hayward), CA: $75,820
  • Santa Rosa, CA: $75,390
  • Grand Rapids, MI: $73,090
  • Washington D.C. (also includes Arlington and Alexandria, VA): $70,700
  • Seattle (also includes Tacoma and Bellevue), WA: $68,160
  • San Diego (also includes Carlsbad), CA: $68,130
  • Carson City, NV: $67,380

State-by-State Paralegal Salary Guide

Where does your state stack up in terms of paralegal pay? The following table highlights salaries and hourly rates for paralegals at every level, and in every state:

Area Name
Employment
Annual median wage
Alabama
4130
46940
Alaska
730
57890
Arizona
7510
51550
Arkansas
2160
36710
California
33490
61520
Colorado
5520
60500
Connecticut
4860
59390
Delaware
1620
48290
District of Columbia
5870
83170
Florida
33760
49410
Georgia
11810
50660
Hawaii
1070
52310
Idaho
1460
48410
Illinois
13320
57300
Indiana
4350
45730
Iowa
2070
47810
Kansas
2450
39930
Kentucky
2960
43540
Louisiana
4930
47270
Maine
1280
48820
Maryland
6780
54390
Massachusetts
7110
58110
Michigan
6870
50510
Minnesota
5350
56360
Mississippi
1680
46180
Missouri
6860
46670
Montana
920
46940
Nebraska
2020
55280
Nevada
2100
58760
New Hampshire
1120
54530
New Jersey
7990
57530
New Mexico
1470
46420
New York
27540
57490
North Carolina
10940
46920
North Dakota
500
45810
Ohio
10790
46070
Oklahoma
2690
42050
Oregon
4660
53180
Pennsylvania
11870
56850
Rhode Island
1170
49160
South Carolina
6030
43250
South Dakota
450
48810
Tennessee
5770
45000
Texas
27630
52340
Utah
2960
54670
Vermont
630
51030
Virginia
10440
49050
Washington
6620
59900
West Virginia
1590
49850
Wisconsin
4320
48390
Wyoming
500
44650

 

May 2020 Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and  job market trends for paralegals and legal assistants represent national data, not school specific information.

State job growth projections for paralegals and legal assistants sourced from the U.S. Department of Labor-sponsored O*Net database (2018-2028).

Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed May 2021.

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