Paralegal career offers opportunities for growth and a high degree of job satisfaction. But what is the average paralegal salary? How do you become a paralegal? And what is the job outlook for this career in 2022? We will answer all of your questions about paralegal salaries!
History of the Profession
The paralegal profession can be traced back to the early 1800s, when lawyers began hiring untrained women to do legal work in their offices. These women were called “paralegals”, a term that was not officially coined until the late 1960s. However, the role of the paralegal has evolved over the years, and the profession is now considered a key component of the legal industry.
Paralegals, also known as “legal assistants” or “law clerks”, are an important part of the legal team, providing support to lawyers in all areas of law. They may be involved in research, document preparation, client interviews, and other tasks. In some jurisdictions, they may also be allowed to appear in court on behalf of clients. While paralegals are not lawyers, they must be familiar with the law and be able to work independently. They may have a degree in paralegal studies, or may have received on-the-job training. Paralegals are often employed by law firms, corporations, government agencies, and other organizations.
The duties of a paralegal can vary depending on the organization they work for, but may include:
- researching the law and previous court decisions related to the case;
- preparing legal documents such as motions, briefs, and contracts;
- interviewing clients and witnesses;
- assisting with trial preparations;
- maintaining client files;
- preparing tax returns, real estate transactions, and other legal filings.
Most paralegals work full time, and many work more than 40 hours per week. Many paralegals also have to work evenings or weekends to complete deadlines. Paralegals who are employed by larger firms or corporations may be expected to travel to attend client meetings, conferences or court hearings.
How to Become a Paralegal?
Starting a career as a paralegal typically requires completing a paralegal studies program. These programs are offered at many community colleges, technical schools, and some four-year colleges and universities. Some programs may take as little as two semesters to complete, while others may last up to four years. Most paralegals have at least an associate’s degree in paralegal studies, although some have a bachelor’s degree. Additionally, many programs offer internships or externships so that students can gain experience in the field. There are also certification programs available for those who want to specialize in a certain area of law. Certification is not required to work as a paralegal, but it may improve employment prospects and earning potential, for example by allowing you to be become a litigation paralegal.
Paralegal vs Litigation Paralegal
The main difference is the focus of their work. Paralegals generally provide support to lawyers in a variety of legal areas, while litigation paralegals specialize in working on cases that go to trial. Both types of paralegals perform many of the same tasks, such as conducting legal research, preparing legal documents, and communicating with clients. However, litigation paralegals also have specific skills that are necessary for working on cases that go to trial, such as case management and working with expert witnesses. Additionally, many states require that litigation paralegals be certified, which can be done through organizations such as the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) or the American Alliance of Paralegals (AAP). There are also many specialized courses and programs available that focus on the skills needed for trial work.
Average Paralegal Salary
The average paralegal salary in the United States is currently $46,000 per year. However, annual salaries can vary greatly depending on experience, education, location, and specialty. For example, paralegals in South Carolina may only make $30,000 per year while the average paralegal salary in Washington peaks at $61,000, which is twice as much!
Litigation paralegals earn appropriately more: the average salary in 2022 is $54,000. Again, the highest litigation paralegal salary is to be earned in Washington, with a median of almost $69,000. On the other side of the spectrum is Indiana, with less than $37,000 on average.
Additional Factors That Affect the Salary
The type of law practiced by the firm also has a deciding effect on how much you may earn. In larger firms, paralegals may specialize in a particular area of law, such as litigation, real estate or intellectual property, whereas in smaller firms or legal departments, paralegals may have a more general practice and handle a variety of tasks. Those firms will typically pay less.
Paralegal Job Outlook
The job outlook for paralegals is very good. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment for paralegals will grow by 18% from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for most occupations. This growth is due to the increasing demand for legal services as the population grows and the economy expands.
Let’s look at what we’ve gathered:
- Paralegals perform legal research, writing and administrative tasks under the supervision of an attorney.
- Average paralegal salary in 2022: $46,000
- Highest-paying state: Washington
- Lowest-paying state: South Carolina; Indiana
- Job outlook: employment growing by 18%
So if you’re interested in pursuing a career as a paralegal, the above information should give you a good overview of what to expect. And remember, if you have any questions, your local law society is a great resource for finding answers. Thanks for reading!