Paralegal Salary

Paralegal Salary

How Much Do Paralegals Get Paid?

When investigating various career fields, the potential salary is an important consideration.  Those considering the paralegal field often wonder “How much does a paralegal make?” or “What is the paralegal salary range?”.  A good source for this information is the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics.  According to statistics from May, 2015, the mean annual paralegal wage was $52,390 and the median annual salary for a paralegal was $48,810.  However, averages are made of a lot of disparate data so many paralegals get paid significantly more or less than those amounts.

Factors that affect paralegal pay

 The paralegal salary range depends on a number of different factors:

  • Experience: In general, the more experience a paralegal has, the more money he or she makes.  This is especially true for government employees who are usually subject to a rather strict salary schedule.  Many law firms give yearly raises to those whose job performance is satisfactory, so that those who have been there longer tend to make more money.
  • Type of Employer: While paralegals are usually thought to be employed by attorneys and/or law firms, many work for corporations either in a legal department or as a team member in another department.  According to a 2007 survey by Paralegal Today Magazine paralegals employed by corporations had an average salary of $61,764, while the annual salary for a paralegal employed by a law firm only averaged $51,686, which was better than the $51,028 paid to the average government paralegal.
  • Area of Specialty: According to Paralegal Today’s survey, for paralegals employed by law firms, the most lucrative specialty was tax law, which paid an average of $67,500.  Intellectual property (patents and trademarks) paid $67,300 and securities paid an average of $62,500.  On the other end of the scale, paralegals working on Worker’s Compensation cases averaged only $36,200.
  • Geographic Area: The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that most of the areas that have highly paid paralegals have high costs of living.  Areas with high mean annual wages include the New York City area, most of California, Alaska, and some major metropolitan areas.  Somewhat surprisingly, the annual mean wages for paralegals in Jackson Mississippi were $50,301, while those three hours away in New Orleans, Louisiana were $48,630.  While most of the higher paying areas were clustered on the coasts, Wyoming and Colorado had were in the high pay areas as well.  Low paying areas were mostly in the middle of the United States away from metropolitan areas.  In northeast Mississippi, mean annual wages were only $33,360, and in northwest Kansas, $31,360.
  • Negotiating Power: Unfortunately, the way many paralegals end up getting major salary increases is by changing jobs.  When an employer wants to hire someone away from another job, they know that money is a major factor.  They also know that once in a job, some people are reluctant to leave.  Especially at the beginning of their career, the way many paralegals more to higher pay scales is by switching jobs.

How much does a paralegal make in my state?

 The paralegal salary range in these states was between $53,390 and $77,230:

  • Washington
  • Oregon
  • California
  • Alaska
  • Colorado
  • Minnesota
  • Georgia
  • Pennsylvania
  • New York
  • Delaware
  • New Jersey
  • Connecticut
  • Rhode Island

The annual mean salary for a paralegal in these states was between $50,240 and $53,190:

  • Nevada
  • Arizona
  • Texas
  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • Michigan
  • Virginia
  • New Hampshire
  • Vermont
  • Massachusetts

How much does a paralegal make in these states?  $44,370-$48,590.

  • Wyoming
  • Nebraska
  • Kansas
  • Iowa
  • Missouri
  • Wisconsin
  • Indiana
  • Ohio
  • Kentucky
  • Tennessee
  • Alabama
  • North Carolina
  • Maine
  • Hawaii

How much do paralegals get paid in the lowest paying states?

The mean annual wage in these states is between $37,670 and $44,330.  The lowest paying states are:

  • Idaho
  • Montana
  • Utah
  • North Dakota
  • South Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • Arkansas
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • South Carolina
  • West Virginia

How can I make more money as a paralegal?

 Assuming that moving to a high-paying state is not an option, paralegals who want high-paying jobs need to set themselves apart from their peers.  Many of the paralegals working in the more highly paid specialties like tax law or securities law have education and job experience that exceeds that of most paralegals.  There are tax paralegals who have accounting degrees; their salaries reflect that they could be working for accounting firms, not just law firms.

Paralegals who want to earn more money need to become experts at something attorneys need and cannot do for themselves.  One such area is trial presentations.  Today’s trial team may go to court with mounted blow-ups of important documents, along with a chalkboard, but if there is big money involved, the client may be willing to pay for sophisticated presentations run via computer.  Someone has to design them and someone needs to run the system during trial.  While big firms may have in-house people to handle this, there have been paralegals who have set up and run successful consulting businesses focusing on trial presentations.

Larger firms may have paralegal managers who hire and train the other paralegals, manage workflow and handle conflicts between paralegals and attorneys.  This role can increase the salary for a paralegal.

Paralegals who work for firms that bill clients by the hour should endeavor to keep their billable hours high, but honest.  This means making sure all work, including quick office conferences and phone calls, makes it onto timesheets and is describe accurately, but in a manner that will make the client willing to pay for the time.  The more time a paralegal bills, the more money he or she makes for the firm, and the better she or he is able to negotiate a raise.

How does the paralegal salary range compare to other professions?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wages for paralegals in May, 2015, were $48,810, while the median annual wages for all occupations were $36,200.  Clearly paralegals earn more than the average occupation.  However, the median annual wages for all legal occupations were $78,170.  Paralegals earn significantly less than attorneys.  In some firms, even the most junior attorney (who goes to the senior paralegal for advice) out-earns all non-attorneys.

How much do paralegals get paid? – A Quick Answer   

It depends on where they work, for whom and what they do.