paralegal salaries
Paralegals are in increasingly high demand thanks to rising caseloads and pressure to deliver skilled but cost-effective legal services. As aids to attorneys, paralegals play a crucial role in the success of any the legal team. These professional lend their expertise to specific tasks, which frees up the attorney’s schedule to focus on other things, reduces legal fees for the client, and expedites the case process.

 

In today’s job market, paralegals tend to enjoy multiple job offers, competitive salaries and benefits, and even signing bonuses. These benefits often come to paralegals because attorneys want to find the best people to build up their legal teams. Oftentimes, these perks extend to greater work flexibility, career advancement opportunities, and more.

 

How Well Do Paralegal Jobs Pay?

 

The Robert Half 2016 Salary Guide, which surveyed 200 lawyers across many organizations in the U.S., determined that the demand for paralegals extends beyond the traditional law firm setting. In fact, paralegals are now found in almost every industry, including the financial, healthcare, and real estate industries. According to the Robert Half 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

 

Breaking Down Paralegal Salaries

So just how much do paralegals make? Because paralegals are in such high demand, salaries have been increasing at a steady rate. The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), which conducted a national survey of paralegals in 2014, determined that paralegals billed an average $125/hour in 2014, increasing about 5 percent from 2012. In addition, the survey concluded that 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

In addition to summary data, the NALA survey also broke down annual average salaries for paralegals by years of experience and compared them with the average salaries from 2012. The survey found that paralegals with 21-25 years of experience saw the largest increase in annual compensation, at 13 percent, between 2012 and 2014. This group was followed by paralegals with more than 25 years of experience, at 8 percent, and those with 1-5 years of experience, at 6 percent.

 

Here is a breakdown of the comparison between 2014 Annual Compensation and 2012 Annual Compensation:

 

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

 

Salary by Educational Level

In addition to experience, education will impact your salary. The 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

Where you live and work will certainly impact your salary. NALA survey found that paralegal salaries varied slightly depending on the region of the country where they were employed. Paralegals on the West Coast tended to earn the highest average salary in 2014 at $63,744, followed closely by paralegals in New England and the Eastern U.S., at an average of $63,396 that year.

Here is a breakdown of the average paralegal compensation for other regions of the U.S. in 2014:

  • 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

Another big impact on salary is specialty. If you take the time to become specialized in a specific area of the law, you can expect to be compensated for it. NALA also reported salaries for paralegals by specialty area of practice. In 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

Paralegal Salary Trends: Law Firms

In addition to salary data, the 2016 Salary Guide organized law firm paralegal salaries by the size of the firms they work in. The following information reveals how salaries changed for paralegals from 2015 to 2016:

Senior/Supervising Paralegal Salaries

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

Paralegal Salary Trends: The Corporate Setting

The 2016 Salary Guide also organized in-house paralegal salaries by company size. The following shows how salaries for paralegals working for corporations changed from 2015 to 2016:
 

Senior/Supervising Paralegal Salaries

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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