Competition is fierce among law firms and corporate employers looking to attract and retain the most talented legal support staff. And it’s not just lawyers, but paralegals with specialized talent and at least a handful of years in the profession who are on their radar.

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Obtain the trifecta of the paralegal profession—a degree in paralegal studies, experience in the industry, and specialized knowledge in one or more areas—and you’ll find job opportunities are both plentiful and lucrative.

Female Paralegal in Office

According to the Robert Half 2017 Salary Guide, employers are ready and willing to negotiate compensation for experienced paralegals, particularly those with a background in compliance, contract, eDiscovery and knowledge of emerging and proprietary software.

The role of paralegals also continues to expand in areas like real estate and litigation, where seasoned paralegals that perform legal services for less than what it costs to hire an attorney are a valuable commodity. Business has largely be responsible for driving the demand—and pushing up the pay—for paralegals with expertise in areas like product development, mergers and acquisitions, and joint ventures.

But there’s more to the story. Salaries for paralegals are driven by a number of factors:

Law Firm Paralegal Salaries: From Entry- to Senior-Level, From Small Firm to Large Firm

In their 2017 salary compensation survey, Robert Half broke down salary ranges for paralegals based on both years of experience and the size of the firm they work in.

All paralegals surveyed saw at least a 2.5 percent increase in their salary between 2016 and 2017. Mid-level paralegals in small/midsize law firms saw the largest increase—5.2 percent—between 2016 and 2017, although this significant increase certainly wasn’t an exception, as most paralegals during this time enjoyed salary increases of about 4 percent.

Senior/supervising paralegals (7+ years of experience)

Not surprisingly, senior/supervising paralegals in large law firms with 75 or more attorneys earned the highest salaries among all paralegal groups. In 2016, they earned salaries within the range of $70,250-$96,720. Just a year later, their salary range jumped 4 percent to $72,250-$101,500. Their counterparts also experienced a salary increase of between 4 and 4.3 percent during the same period:

  • Paralegals with midsize law firms (35-75 attorneys): $67,500-$83,250 (2016) $72,250-$101,500 (2017)
  • Paralegals with small/midsize law firms (10-35 attorneys): $67,500-$83,250 (2016) $70,500-$86,750 (2017)
  • Paralegals with small law firms (up to 10 attorneys): $51,500-$68,250 (2016) $53,000-$71,500 (2017)

Mid-level paralegals (4-6 years of experience)

As mentioned, the winners of the largest salary increase between 2016 and 2017 were mid-level paralegals at small/midsize law firms. These legal professionals earned between $54,500-$65,000 in 2016; by 2017, their salary range jumped to $55,750-$70,000—a 5.2 percent increase. But their counterparts weren’t far behind, with salary increases of between 3.8 and 4.8 percent:

  • Paralegals with large law firms (75+ attorneys): $61,750-$74,500 (2016) $63,000-$78,750 (2017)
  • Paralegals with midsize law firms (35-75 attorneys): $58,500-$73,750 (2016) $61,750-$76,500 (2017)
  • Paralegals with small law firms (up to 10 attorneys): $44,750-$60,250 (2016) $46,75.0-$63,250 (2017)

Entry-level paralegals (2-3 years of experience)

It’s no surprise that the newest paralegals in Robert Half’s compensation survey saw the smallest salary increases during this time, as paralegals with more experience are always in-demand.

However, that’s not to say entry-level paralegals didn’t enjoy a bump in salary between 2016 and 2017:

  • Paralegals with large law firms (75+ attorneys): $44,250-$59,500 (2016) $46,250-$61,000 (2017)
  • Paralegals with midsize law firms (35-75 attorneys): $43,750-$57,500 (2016) $44,500-$59,250 (2017)
  • Paralegals with small/midsize law firms (10-35 attorneys): $40,250-$52,250 (2016) $41,750-$54,000 (2017)

Corporate Paralegal Salaries According to Experience and Corporation Size

Corporate paralegals couldn’t compete with law firm paralegals during the 2016-17 period in terms of increases, with these legal professionals experiencing a salary bump of between 2 and 3.5 percent.

However, there is a long-held precedent for paralegals working for corporations to be the best paid in the profession, and this went unchallenged. In 2017, corporate paralegals out-earning law firm paralegals in every category:

Senior/supervising paralegals (7+ years of experience)

  • Large company (More than $250 million in revenue): $74,500-$98,000 (2016) $76,250-$102,500 (2017)
  • Midsize company ($25 million-$250 million in revenue): $67,250-$88,250 (2016) $68,000-$93,750 (2017)
  • Small company (Up to $25 million in revenue): $62,750-$77,500 (2016) $65,250-$79,500 (2017)

Mid-level paralegals (4-6 years of experience)

  • Large company (More than $250 million in revenue): $60,000-$77,500 (2016) $62,000-$78,750 (2017)
  • Midsize company ($25 million-$250 million in revenue): $55,750-$68,250 (2016) $58,750-$69,500 (2017)
  • Small company (Up to $25 million in revenue): $52,000-$62,250 (2016) $53,750-$64,500 (2017)

Entry-level paralegals (2-3 years of experience)

  • Large company (More than $250 million in revenue): $50,000-$61,250 (2016) $52,000-$63,250 (2017)
  • Midsize company ($25 million-$250 million in revenue): $46,500-$57,000 (2016) $47,250-$59,500 (2017)
  • Small company (Up to $25 million in revenue): $41,750-$52,500 (2016) $42,500-$53,750 (2017)

Paralegal Salaries and Hourly Wages by State

As with all professions, paralegal salaries are largely determined by the job market and demand in the state or region in which they work. For example, it comes as no surprise that paralegals in states like California ($56,950) earn far more than their colleagues in North Dakota ($43,380).

A 2016 NALA National Utilization & Compensation Survey Report highlighted the differences in average salaries among paralegals according to region:

  • New England/Mid-East: $59,830
  • Great Lakes: $58,090
  • Plains States: $56,949
  • Southeast: $59,110
  • Southwest: $64,990
  • Rocky Mountains: $60,212
  • Far West: $71,244

According to 2016 statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor, the national average for paralegals was $49,500, with the top 10 percent earning an average of $80,260.

The highest-earning paralegals were located in Washington D.C. These legal professionals earned an average, annual salary of $73,490, with the top 10 percent earning $112,910. In Alaska, the demand for legal support is reaching new peaks every year as is reflected in the fact that paralegals here are the second highest paid in the country, earning an average annual salary of $62,090, while those in the top 10 percent earn $109,640 on average.

Find your state’s average paralegal salary below:

Alabama

  • Average annual salary: $44,180 ($21.24 per hour)
  • Top 10 percent: $63,510 ($30.53 per hour)

Alaska

  • Average annual salary: $62,090 ($29.85 per hour)
  • Top 10 percent: $109,640 ($52.71 per hour)

Arizona

  • Average annual salary: $47,770 ($22.97 per hour)
  • Top 10 percent: $75,870 ($36.48 per hour)

Arkansas

  • Average annual salary: $ 36,530 ($17.56 per hour)
  • Top 10 percent: $59,240 ($28.48 per hour)

California

  • Average annual salary: $56,950 ($27.38 per hour)
  • Top 10 percent: $92,590 ($44.51 per hour)

Colorado

  • Average annual salary: $49,360 ($23.73 per hour)
  • Top 10 percent: $84,080 ($40.42 per hour)

Connecticut

  • Average annual salary: $54,440 ($26.17 per hour)
  • Top 10 percent: $80,500 ($38.70 per hour)

Delaware

  • Average annual salary: $50,280 ($24.17 per hour)
  • Top 10 percent: $81,730 ($39.29 per hour)

District of Columbia

  • Average annual salary: $73,490 ($35.33 per hour)
  • Top 10 percent: $112,910 ($54.29 per hour)

Florida

  • Average annual salary: $46,200 ($22.21 per hour)
  • Top 10 percent: $71,940 ($34.59 per hour)

Georgia

  • Average annual salary: $48,820 ($23.47 per hour)
  • Top 10 percent: $80,680 ($38.79 per hour)

Hawaii

  • Average annual salary: $43,120 ($20.73 per hour)
  • Top 10 percent: $67,700 ($32.55 per hour)

Idaho

  • Average annual salary: $41,930 ($20.16 per hour)
  • Top 10 percent: $55,060 ($26.47 per hour)

Illinois

  • Average annual salary: $52,510 ($25.25 per hour)
  • Top 10 percent: $81,080 ($38.98 per hour)

Indiana

  • Average annual salary: $41,110 ($19.76 per hour)
  • Top 10 percent: $70,090 ($33.70 per hour)

Iowa

  • Average annual salary: $46,740 ($22.47 per hour)
  • Top 10 percent: $70,620 ($33.95 per hour)

Kansas

  • Average annual salary: $41,340 ($19.87 per hour)
  • Top 10 percent: $65,100 ($31.30 per hour)

Kentucky

  • Average annual salary: $44,780 ($21.53 per hour)
  • Top 10 percent: $73,410 ($35.29 per hour)

Louisiana

  • Average annual salary: $43,620 ($20.97 per hour)
  • Top 10 percent: $63,270 ($30.42 per hour)

Maine

  • Average annual salary: $45,510 ($21.88 per hour)
  • Top 10 percent: $62,010 ($29.81 per hour)

Maryland

  • Average annual salary: $52,410 ($25.20 per hour)
  • Top 10 percent: $76,120 ($36.60 per hour)

Massachusetts

  • Average annual salary: $52,050 ($25.03 per hour)
  • Top 10 percent: $82,730 ($39.77 per hour)

Michigan

  • Average annual salary: $48,890 ($23.50 per hour)
  • Top 10 percent: $76,460 ($36.76 per hour)

Minnesota

  • Average annual salary: $54,820 ($26.36 per hour)
  • Top 10 percent: $79,420 ($38.18 per hour)

Mississippi

  • Average annual salary: $45,950 ($22.09 per hour)
  • Top 10 percent: $70,650 ($33.96 per hour)

Missouri

  • Average annual salary: $49,050 ($23.58 per hour)
  • Top 10 percent: $73,410 ($35.16 per hour)

Montana

  • Average annual salary: $42,460 ($20.41 per hour)
  • Top 10 percent: $64,050 ($30.79 per hour)

Nebraska

  • Average annual salary: $42,980 ($20.66 per hour)
  • Top 10 percent: $68,840 ($33.10 per hour)

Nevada

  • Average annual salary: $54,340 ($26.12 per hour)
  • Top 10 percent: $75,150 ($36.13 per hour)

New Hampshire

  • Average annual salary: $48,440 ($23.29 per hour)
  • Top 10 percent: $70,610 ($33.95 per hour)

New Jersey

  • Average annual salary: $55,260 ($26.57 per hour)
  • Top 10 percent: $81,720 ($39.29 per hour)

New Mexico

  • Average annual salary: $41,360 ($19.89 per hour)
  • Top 10 percent: $62,370 ($29.98 per hour)

New York

  • Average annual salary: $53,740 ($25.84 per hour)
  • Top 10 percent: $94,710 ($45.53 per hour)

North Carolina

  • Average annual salary: $42,530 ($20.45 per hour)
  • Top 10 percent: $71,900 ($34.57 per hour)

North Dakota

  • Average annual salary: $43,380 ($20.86 per hour)
  • Top 10 percent: $66,020 ($31.74 per hour)

Ohio

  • Average annual salary: $44,810 ($21.54 per hour)
  • Top 10 percent: $73,050 ($35.12 per hour)

Oklahoma

  • Average annual salary: $40,640 ($19.54 per hour)
  • Top 10 percent: $66,010 ($31.74 per hour)

Oregon

  • Average annual salary: $49,900 ($23.99 per hour)
  • Top 10 percent: $76,750 ($36.90 per hour)

Pennsylvania

  • Average annual salary: $50,290 ($24.18 per hour)
  • Top 10 percent: $79,420 ($38.18 per hour)

Rhode Island

  • Average annual salary: $53,320 ($25.63 per hour)
  • Top 10 percent: $77,360 ($37.19 per hour)

South Carolina

  • Average annual salary: $40,580 ($19.51 per hour)
  • Top 10 percent: $62,250 ($29.93 per hour)

South Dakota

  • Average annual salary: $40,160 ($19.31 per hour)
  • Top 10 percent: $62,250 ($29.93 per hour)

Tennessee

  • Average annual salary: $46,550 ($22.38 per hour)
  • Top 10 percent: $75,410 ($36.26 per hour)

Texas

  • Average annual salary: $50,550 ($24.30 per hour)
  • Top 10 percent: $82,700 ($39.76 per hour)

Utah

  • Average annual salary: $43,570 ($20.94 per hour)
  • Top 10 percent: $66,290 ($31.87 per hour)

Vermont

  • Average annual salary: $47,810 ($22.99 per hour)
  • Top 10 percent: $68,120 ($32.75 per hour)

Virginia

  • Average annual salary: $50,410 ($24.23 per hour)
  • Top 10 percent: $78,960 ($37.96 per hour)

Washington

  • Average annual salary: $58,050 ($27.91 per hour)
  • Top 10 percent: $86,830 ($41.74 per hour)

West Virginia

  • Average annual salary: $41,360 ($19.88 per hour)
  • Top 10 percent: $65,430 ($31.45 per hour)

Wisconsin

  • Average annual salary: $46,230 ($22.23 per hour)
  • Top 10 percent: $70,360 ($33.83 per hour)

Wyoming

  • Average annual salary: $48,970 ($23.54 per hour)
  • Top 10 percent: $67,560 ($32.48 per hour)

 

Other Factors Affecting Total Compensation for Paralegals

The 2016 NALA report highlighted the many factors that affect total compensation for paralegals. In 2016, the average bonus among paralegals was $4,598, which was about the same as bonuses paid in 2014, which averaged $4,581.

Benefits are also often part of the total compensation package for paralegals. According to the NALA survey, the top benefits paralegals enjoyed in 2016 included:

  • Paid conference/seminar fees
  • Paid professional dues
  • Parking
  • Health insurance
  • Life insurance

Since 2014, NALA reported that about 80 percent of all paralegals reported that their employer provided and contributed to a retirement or pension plan, while another 35 percent reported their employer offered profit-sharing plans. Another 25-30 percent of paralegal employers offered health, dental, and vision insurance.

Some of the other benefits employers offered included tuition reimbursement, health club membership, leased car, childcare, disability insurance, maternity benefits, and mileage.

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