Many factors influence how much a legal assistant or paralegal will be paid.
You can learn how to take control of your career and take the following steps to earn a higher wage.
Education, experience, type of employer, location, and certification are all factors that hold sway over how much your salary will be.
Legal Assistant & Paralegal Salaries
Legal assistants just starting out with no experience earn salaries in the range of $28k to $33k annually.
After a few years’ experience, legal assistant salaries increase to the $40k-$50k range.
Paralegals who work at a large law firm and have a several years of experience can expect to enjoy the highest salaries reaching up to the $90k range.
Legal secretaries’ salaries range from $22k starting out, up to $70k with experience.
See this article to find out information on paralegal salary in Canada.
There more education you have, the higher the salary amount you can expect to earn.
It is not necessary for legal assistants to have more than an associate’s degree, and in fact that is as far as many will go with their education. However, those who have bachelor’s degrees in any field plus a paralegal certificate enjoy higher annual salaries.
Learn more about paralegal undergraduate degrees here.
Very few paralegals go on to earn graduate degrees, but those who hold them are among the very highest wage earners. Other aspects such as location and law firm size factor into this figure as well.
Experience and Expertise
Just like any other career field, people who have more experience will get paid more than those who are new to the job.
Within five years of becoming a legal assistant, you can be making significantly more money than an entry-level paralegal.
It is not just legal experience that counts towards a higher wage. For many, legal assisting is a second career path. Crossing over from another career can provide helpful expertise for your new legal employer. Jobs in the healthcare field, social services, or insurance industry are especially valuable.
Paralegals that specialize in a particular area of law have developed expertise in their field that easily translates into a higher paying position.
Corporate paralegals or legal assistants who focus on international law, can easily earn salaries that are $60k or more a year.
Other specialization areas that pay wages higher than average are civil litigation and real estate law.
Type of Employer
Who you work for and what type of work your do is probably the factor that affects wages the most.
Large firms pay more than small firms. The federal government pays more than municipal governments. Big corporations pay more than private entities. Generally speaking, of course.
The type of law practiced is a huge determining factor. A law firm specializing in family law is probably not going to offer you the same salary you would earn as a litigation paralegal in a personal injury firm.
Hopefully, you haven’t decided to become a paralegal based solely on how much money you will make. But if money is a major consideration for you, some areas of law that pay the most are: corporate law, civil litigation, and intellectual property law.
Location influences legal assistant and paralegal salaries greatly.
The highest paying locations are NYC and San Francisco. For example, the average salary for New York paralegals is approximately 40% higher than the US national average.
Higher salaries are enjoyed by legal assistants on the east and west coasts. The south and Midwest regions of the US are the lowest paying on average. Keep in mind that the cost of living on the coasts is also higher.
Metropolitan areas are higher paying locations than rural areas. Again, cost of living is also higher in cities, so pay scales take that into consideration.
While not yet required in any state, paralegal certification is another factor that can influence your paid grade.
Particularly in metro areas, certification can make a difference in salary. It can even be the determining factor in whether you get hired over another applicant with equal education and experience, but who hasn’t become certified.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal jobs
Using this job search tool, you can find salary information for legal assistant and paralegal jobs that have openings in any location by typing in city, state, or zip code.