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How Much Does a Paralegal Make a Year?

By Emily Greenhill Pierce · February 05, 2024 · 6 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey. Read more We develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide. We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right. Read less

How Much Does a Paralegal Make a Year?

The median annual salary for a paralegal is $59,200, according to the latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But depending on where you live, your area of expertise, and your level of experience, you could make upwards of $121,110 or more a year.

A career as a paralegal can be a fulfilling choice for those interested in the law. While the job can be demanding and the hours sometimes long, it can also provide professional satisfaction and a chance to help others in your community.

What Are Paralegals?

A paralegal works under the supervision of a lawyer and performs supportive legal tasks. Administrative duties require a knowledge of the law, but you don’t have to have a law degree or a law license.

Paralegals are often responsible for the following tasks:

•   Draft motions and pleadings for an attorney and file it with the court.

•   Research cases. Paralegals research current and old legal cases to help discover relative precedents and understand past rulings.

•   Interview clients and witnesses involved in a case.

•   Communicate with clients throughout the phases of the legal process.

•   Collect documents, client testimonials, and expert witnesses on behalf of the attorney.

•   Draft reports and legal documents for cases.

•   Factcheck legal filings and documents for accuracy.

•   Gather supporting documents that a lawyer may use or file with the court.

•   Coordinate cases, including their schedules and deadlines.

•   Assist and support lawyers during trials.

Being a paralegal is not a job for antisocial people, as it typically involves being a liaison between clients, attorneys, investigators, witnesses, and court officials.


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How Much Do Starting Paralegals Make?

Whether they’re fresh out of school or have been working for several years, paralegals can be paid hourly or earn a yearly salary. A typical rate for a brand-new paralegal is $19.20 an hour or $55,332 a year.

An entry-level salary or hourly rate for a paralegal varies by work environment. Smaller firms and nonprofits tend to pay less, while bigger corporate law firms may offer more competitive pay.

Paralegals can specialize in certain areas, including litigation, real estate, divorce, intellectual property, immigration, and bankruptcy. Honing your skills in a particular area of the law could help position you for higher-paying opportunities.

No matter the size of your salary, it helps to keep a close eye on your finances and the progress you’re making toward your financial goals. Online tools like a money tracker app can help you create a budget, monitor your credit score, and more.

Recommended: Is a $100,000 Salary Good?

What Is the Average Paralegal Salary by State?

Like most jobs, the amount of money you can earn as a paralegal is impacted by geography. As the chart below shows, salaries in this field can fluctuate from state to state.


The Median Salary by State for a Paralegal in 2022

State

Median Salary

Alabama $48,620
Alaska $61,490
Arizona $59,050
Arkansas n/a
California $69,790
Colorado $65,010
Connecticut $63,490
Delaware $59,660
District of Columbia $87,610
Florida $52,190
Georgia $51,420
Hawaii $58,630
Idaho $48,500
Illinois $60,370
Indiana $47,710
Iowa $52,660
Kansas $48,490
Kentucky $48,810
Louisiana $50,310
Maine $54,710
Maryland $58,760
Massachusetts $63,360
Michigan $58,780
Minnesota $60,380
Mississippi $43,590
Missouri $55,410
Montana $55,270
Nebraska $50,610
Nevada $61,180
New Hampshire $50,960
New Jersey $61,040
New Mexico $48,320
New York $62,730
North Carolina $51,340
North Dakota $48,740
Ohio $50,580
Oklahoma $48,490
Oregon $63,980
Pennsylvania $62,080
Rhode Island n/a
South Carolina $48,190
South Dakota $54,100
Tennessee $48,420
Texas $56,310
Utah $52,820
Vermont $60,560
Virginia $59,500
Washington $69,260
West Virginia $47,990
Wisconsin $49,970
Wyoming $52,000

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Paralegal Job Considerations for Pay and Benefits

Thinking about becoming a paralegal? Consider the following:

•   Areas of interest. Paralegals can work in any number of specialties: corporate law, patent law, health care, and more. Thinking about which field best suits your interest can help guide your training and job search.

•   Career goals. Is career advancement and an annual pay raise important to you? Is having a flexible schedule a priority? Discuss your options with a hiring manager before accepting a position.

•   Benefits. Many full-time and part-time paralegals are eligible for benefits, including, health, vision, and dental insurance, a 401(k), tuition assistance, and paid time off.

•   Time and energy commitment. Some areas of law, like litigation, are more stressful than others and may require longer working hours.

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Pros and Cons of Being a Paralegal

Ultimately, deciding if becoming a paralegal is a good fit depends on your interests, skills, and goals. Like any profession, working as a paralegal has its positives and negatives:

Pros:

•   Salary. Paralegals stand to earn excellent pay, especially if they train for specific roles. A courtroom presentation specialist, for instance, may earn between $67,500 and $125,000 a year.

•   Job outlook. Paralegals are in high demand. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in the field are projected to grow 4% from 2022 to 2032.

•   Variety of work. On any given day, a paralegal may juggle a number of cases and assorted tasks — from paperwork to writing motions to speaking with witnesses.

•   Stimulating work. Creative problem-solving skills and analytical reasoning are put to use every day as a paralegal. The job also requires staying up-to-date on new and changing laws.

•   No law school. Becoming a paralegal requires much less education than is demanded of lawyers. A bachelor’s degree in any field and completing an accredited paralegal program are often all that’s needed.

Cons:

•   Long hours. Paralegals often work more than the traditional 40-hour week. As deadlines and court dates approach, you may find yourself working late nights and weekends.

•   High stress. In addition to assisting lawyers with complex legal issues, paralegals may work closely with demanding clients.

•   Lack of autonomy. When you’re a paralegal, you work directly under and are supervised by a licensed attorney. And since you are not certificated to practice law, you cannot advise your clients on legal matters or represent them in court.



💡 Quick Tip: Income, expenses, and life circumstances can change. Consider reviewing your budget a few times a year and making any adjustments if needed.

The Takeaway

While the hours can be long and the environment sometimes stressful, being a paralegal can provide you with an opportunity to help others, stay intellectually stimulated, and earn a good salary. While the average paralegal salary is around $59,200 a year, you may be able to earn more depending on your experience, specialty, and location.

FAQ

What is the highest-paying paralegal job?

One of the highest-paying paralegal jobs is a courtroom presentation specialist, which typically pays between $67,500 and $125,000 a year.

Do Paralegals make 100k a year?

Depending on how much experience you have, your area of expertise, and your employer, you could make $100,000 or more a year as a paralegal.

How much do paralegals make starting out?

When they’re just starting out, a paralegal earns an average of $19.20 an hour or $55,332 a year.


Photo credit: iStock/sturti

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