The NALA 2015 Compensation Survey Provides New Insight into Factors that Lead to Higher Pay

Every two years, the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) surveys paralegals around the country to learn more about salary trends while also looking at a number of other aspects of their professional life. The survey from 2015 provides valuable information for paralegals looking at ways to advance their careers, and their pay.

Certification Can Improve Salaries:

One of the findings is that certification tends to improve salaries. For instance, having a Certified Paralegal (CP) Certification resulted in paralegals earning nearly $5,000 more per year than their colleagues that lacked this certification. Paralegals that earned the Advanced Certified Paralegal (ACP) certification earned even higher salaries. These paralegals earned nearly $12,000 more than their colleagues who did not have this certification.

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Choose Your Practice Area Carefully:

While some practice areas are promising, others are on a downward trend. It is important to be aware of this information when choosing a career path:

Top 10 practice areas:

  • Administrative/Government/Public
  • Civil Litigation
  • Commercial
  • Contracts
  • Corporate
  • Employment/Labor Law
  • Insurance
  • Personal Injury
  • Probate
  • Real Estate

Declining practice areas:

  • Admiralty/Maritime
  • American/Tribal
  • Aviation
  • Energy/Utility
  • Entertainment
  • Immigration
  • Native American/Tribal
  • Securities/Antitrust
  • Social Security
  • Telecommunications

Pursue Continuing Education:

The survey also revealed that most firms do not require continuing education for their paralegals. Paralegals that want to increase their skills must take matters into their own hands. Options include continuing legal education seminars, certifications, and local professional associations. Nearly one-third of the respondents had moved to a different work environment or switched practice areas to advance their careers

More than 20% of paralegals reported that they worked late almost every day, while an additional 23% worked late about once a week. These numbers have declined slightly from previous surveys and suggest that paralegals are maintaining a better work/life balance.

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