Paralegals' Employment Outlook

Lots of jobs and healthy competition

Of the over 200,000 paralegals jobs in 2004, about 70 percent were with private law firms. For the most part the remaining professionals worked for corporate legal departments and various government agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Justice, the Social Security Administration and The U.S. Department of Treasury. A small few worked as freelance contractors for attorneys and corporate legal departments.

There will be much faster than average job growth due to employers of all sizes hiring paralegals to complete work traditionally performed by lawyers. Paralegals can perform many of the same tasks as lawyers for only a fraction of the fee. Paralegals already employed will also be given more responsibility.

The hiring of paralegals for these jobs is predicted to increase the availability and efficiency of legal services. More jobs opportunities will come from professionals leaving their positions (some to open their own businesses) and the growth of prepaid legal plans. A wealth of job openings won't lower competition though, as many people will still be vying for the best spots.

Paralegals with the best opportunities will be those with formal training, the most experience and the highest specialization in areas with more job openings.

Where paralegals will find jobs

Private law firms will continue to be the largest employers. Other jobs will be with banks, insurance companies and real estate and title insurance firms. Corporations are expected to employ more paralegals with their in-house legal departments in order to cut costs.

Areas of law where paralegals will be increasingly required are intellectual property, international law, health care, elder issues, environmental law and criminal law. Those who specialize in areas including real estate, bankruptcy and medical malpractice should also have encouraging opportunities.

In fact, paralegals should find jobs almost anywhere they look, whether it's in the public sector, with all levels of government or with consumer organizations.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says the only potential problem areas for paralegals are in specializations that relate to discretionary spending, such as estate planning and wills. These areas may be negatively affected by economic lows. In the event of a recession, though, jobs in bankruptcy and foreclosure should remain stable.

Paralegal wages

Paralegals with better education and more experience can make significantly more money. Those who work in big cities tend to earn more. Many paralegals will be able to earn bonuses on top of their salaries.

  • Median annual wages - $39,130
  • Middle 50 percent - $31,040 to $49,950
  • Top 10 percent - over $61,390
  • Bottom 10 percent - under $25,360

Earnings by industry

  • Federal Government - $59,370
  • Local government - $38,260
  • Legal services - $37,870
  • State government - $34,910

Statistics courtesy the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2004