Paralegal Salaries Rise Even as Billing Rates for Legal Fees Drop

The just-released 2013 survey, ALM/IPMA Annual Compensation Survey for Paralegals and Managers, reported a few, interesting surprises. In particular, it revealed that hourly base pay continues to increase for both paralegal and litigation support positions, despite the fact that law firms are billing their clients less for these services.

The survey included 298 participating law firms, which provided information on more than 8,200 paralegal and legal support positions.

Hourly Rate Changes for Paralegals and Legal Assistants

The survey revealed that 86.3 percent of surveyed law organizations granted salaries in 2013, a drop from 91.5 percent in 2012. The average increase firms expected to grant their paralegals was 3 percent, for both exempt and non-exempt positions.

The rates charged by law firms in 2013 decreased by about 5 percent from 2012, with the paralegal supervisor/coordinator seeing a drop of 17 percent. Case managers, however, showed an increase of 10 percent.

The highest paid law firm positions reported in the 2013 survey were:

  • Litigation support project manager: $57.42 per hour
  • Litigation support/technology manager: $79.41 per hour, up from $77.72 in 2012
  • Paralegal director: $60.74 per hour
  • Paralegal director: $73.48, up from $67.73 in 2012

An Increase in Bonuses and Total Compensation

Bonuses for paralegal directors also rose in 2013, according to the survey, earning $16,149, compared to $13,325 in 2012. Bonuses for case managers were also up in 2013 to $8,267 from $6,297 in 2012. Paralegal bonuses between 2012 and 2013 remained virtually unchanged, with average bonuses coming in at $3,426 in 2013, compared to $3,511 in 2012.

Paralegals with no management responsibilities had an average, hourly salary of $35.98, a $2.50 per hour increase from 2012 ($33.49). Paralegals without management duties in law departments earned an average hourly salary of $31.46 in 2013, virtually unchanged from the 2012 average hourly salary of $31.50.