Paralegals are a vital member of the support staff of the legal team that help lawyers prepare for hearings, court cases, and other corporate meetings. Paralegals are typically responsible for conducting investigative research on relevant laws/facts, maintaining and organizing files, and drafting contracts and other legal documents.
Paralegals utilize electronic databases for organizing all essential information related to the trial, including data, documents, emails, and finances that will help the lawyer win the case.
How much do paralegals make? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ May 2012 records, the average annual paralegal salary is $50,220, or $24.15 per hour. The lowest ten percent of paralegals earn $29,420, while the top ten percent earners make an average of $75,410 annually. The annual salary for a paralegal highly depends on his or her level of experience, with the lowest percentiles being earned by entry-level paralegals and the top percentiles held by those with 20 or more years of experience.
Generally, paralegals that are employed within huge law firms in metropolitan cities or larger states earn a higher salary. For instance, paralegals in the District of Columbia boast a much higher annual mean salary of $68,850, while those in California also earn above the average at $58,570 per year as well.
Furthermore, there is tremendous variety in average salaries for paralegals across the different specialty areas within the law firm setting. On the low end, paralegals that specialize in personal injury defense earn $39,750 and those in family law make $39,078 on average. On the much higher end, paralegals in law firms that deal with product liability earn an average $56,683 and those in tax law make $67,500 each year.
In May 2012, paralegals held 267,030 jobs nationwide in a variety of different legal settings. The vast majority, nearly 70 percent, were employed in legal services at private law firms and practices. Paralegals are also employed within corporate legal departments, state/federal government agencies, and finance or insurance companies. The employment of paralegals throughout these settings is expected to grow at an average rate of 18 percent between 2010 and 2020. In particular, larger corporations are increasing their paralegal positions to reduce the costs for their legal departments.
Most paralegals that are employed in corporations, law firms, and government agencies work full-time within an office or law library setting. Although most of these paralegals work throughout the year, there are some that are temporarily employed during the busier months of the year. Paralegals may have to travel to collect needed information and finish other tasks; however, most paralegals work very long overtime hours inside the office to meet high-pressure deadlines.