Paralegal salary is one of the major attractions for those who want enter in this industry. But, if you want to make the best from this career, you must have deep knowledge in this field. Legal aides, legal para-professionals, legal researchers, legal assistants, legal executives and law clerks are the other names of paralegals.
Average Salary of Paralegals
According to the estimates of BLS, the annual median salary of paralegals in the US in 2010 was around $46,680. Therefore, there hourly rate during the same period was around $22.44. This is the typical salary rate of paralegals in general. The income of entry level professionals ranges from $27,000 to $41,000 per year. However, it depends on the law firm you are working. You can achieve greater milestones in your career once you attain a few years’ experience.
The salary of paralegals depends on various factors including experience, job location, education, etc. Your annual mean wage will be around $60,940 if you are working in California. Professionals who work in Florida can earn around $48,690 annually. Annual mean salaries of paralegals in New York, Texas and Illinois are around $56,200, $51,850, and $49,020 respectively. If you are working in Districts of Columbia, you can earn around $74,930 per year. Experienced paralegals can earn around $91,000 per year.
You can earn a very high income from larger cities with high cost of living. According to BLS 2011, California, District of Columbia, New York, New Jersey and Illinois are the high paying areas for paralegals and most of the professionals are living in these areas. Southern Georgia, Southern Alaska, Northern New York and Hawaii are high paying non-metropolitan areas.
The salary range of paralegals is also affected by type of business. You can earn around $70,000 per year if you are working for industries such as software and electronic shopping, coal and petroleum products, etc. The average annual income of corporate paralegals is around $61,764. Average annual wage of mergers and acquisition paralegals is around $94,096. Corporate governance specialists can earn around $73,562 per year and real estate specialists can earn around $89,822 per year.
Your income will be around $71,254 if you have specialization in municipal law. Paralegals with specialization in energy law can make around $68,000 per year. Salaries of paralegals with various specializations are:
* Tax law : $64,350
* Worker’s compensation : $63,742
* Commercial law : $63,360
* Family law : $35,512
* Criminal law : $37,003
* Personal injury : $45,576
Paralegal Job Description
Specialized in an area of law, paralegals carry out a range of legal works. They are not qualified solicitors, but they need to do lots of works that a solicitor does. The duties of paralegals range from administrative to legal tasks. According to NALA (National Association of Legal Assistants), paralegals need to carry out a variety of duties, which include:
* Perform legal research
* Prepare legal documents, correspondence, pleadings
* Conduct client interviews
* Maintain contacts with clients
* Meet and interview potential witnesses
* Review and summarize discovery
* Conduct and organize investigation and documents
* Attend court and certain procedural meetings
* Work related correspondence
If you are working in a private sector, you need to do some different tasks, which include answering phones, schedule and arrange travel, track and organize files, write correspondence, coordinate events for firm employees, etc. Litigation paralegals must be able to help manage files, analyze evidence for hearings and complete research. If you want to become a paralegal, you must have the following skills.
* Analytical skills
* Research skills
* Organizational skills
* Critical thinking skills
* Computer skills
* Detail oriented
* Stress tolerance
* Strong communication skills
How To Become A Paralegal?
Paralegals are lawyer’s assistants who help lawyers prepare for a trial or meeting. An associate or bachelor degree is needed for becoming a paralegal. But some lawyers prefer to hire employees with a professional certification.
You cannot find a universal education requirement for becoming a paralegal. But several possible education paths empower you to enter in this career field. Certificate and degree programs are the two career options. Educational programs for paralegals are approved by ABA (American Bar Association). Very few associate and bachelor degree programs are approved by ABA. A degree program that offer entirely online will not be ABA approved. According to the requirements of ABA, a minimum 10 semester hours of law related courses must be taken in a traditional classroom. The topics of paralegal programs include:
* Administrative law
* Litigation procedure
* Litigation practice
* Dispute resolution and mediation
* Family law
* Medical Law
* Real estate law
* Partnerships and corporation
* Office procedures
You can complete the certificate programs in 7 months. These programs are suitable for those who have an associate or bachelor degree in other areas. Certificate programs in paralegal covers topics such as law and ethics, family law, business law, legal writing, legal research, personal injury and intellectual property.
Associate and bachelor degree programs are the other two education paths to become a paralegal. Though some master’s degree programs are also available, this is not required for many employers.
Though certification for paralegals is not mandatory, some employers prefer to hire professionals with a certification. Voluntary general certification is offered by NALA. You can also seek a certification from the American Alliance of Paralegals.
Types of Paralegals
To become a paralegal, you must also decide the type of paralegal you want to become. Hundreds of opportunities are available for those who have a basic legal assistant degree. However, if you specialization in an area, you can stand out from the heap. Some types of paralegals are:
* Immigration paralegal
* Litigation paralegal
* Nurse paralegal
* Corporate paralegal
* Contract or freelance paralegal
* Virtual paralegal
* Real estate paralegal
* Bankruptcy paralegal
* Air force paralegal
* Army paralegal
* Criminal paralegal
* Intellectual property paralegal
* Family law paralegal
When you research, retrieve and prepare important documents and information for a trial, you need to use lots of sophisticated computer programs that help you to sort out and retrieve desired results for hearing. Today, lots of software packages are available within law office. Computer programs enable you to bill clients appropriately, scan imagery information and perform tax calculations and strategies. The services of paralegals are essential in law firms, court offices, corporations, insurance and real estate companies, banks, etc. However, you can also work as a freelance paralegal assistant.
According to the estimates of BLS, the employment for paralegals is expected to grow up to 17 percent through 2022. The demand is very high in insurance, finance, healthcare and consulting sectors. The demand for corporate employers is also very high.
If you continue your education, you can become a legal executive and eventually a solicitor. Some legal firms offer training to those who complete Legal practice course, which allows them to become a solicitor. Select your education and specialization carefully to get very high paralegal salary.