Posted by Lisa Hamilton on Thursday, April 24, 2014 - 00:00
As the paralegal role continues to evolve, more organizations are meeting the demands for an increased paralegal salary to better match the skills required of paralegals today. Newly expanded paralegal roles require candidates to be adept at using relevant technology, such as e-discovery software and e-filing systems, and to have experience in specific areas of law, such as healthcare and corporate law. Research by Robert Half Legal shows that many employers today are having to adjust their paralegal salary requirements in order to hire paralegals with more than five years of experience, a bachelor’s degree and a certificate of completion from a paralegal education program approved by the American Bar Association.
Key Paralegal Salary and Employment Trends
Here are some of the key paralegal salary and employment trends:
Experience and skills in demand: Paralegals with specialized knowledge and more than five years of experience are in high demand this year as law firms seek skilled legal professionals for their teams. Paralegals should no longer focus on gaining a broad set of skills but, instead, focus on becoming an expert in a niche area such as bankruptcies or foreclosures.
Increased paralegal salary expectations: More organizations are making the necessary changes in compensation to attract top talent and retain valued employees. Paralegals with more than seven years of experience, for example, are expected to earn a paralegal salary 3.9 percent higher in 2014 compared to the previous year at midsize firms. This is more than the anticipated increase at small or large size firms.
Midlevel paralegals, those with four to six years of experience, can expect the highest paralegal salary increase at small law firms with a 3.7 percent jump, and junior level paralegals can expect the lowest salary increase of the group at only 1.8 percent at large law firms.
Fields with the most growth in hiring: Many law firms and corporate legal departments are looking for paralegals with backgrounds in healthcare and corporate law as regulations in these fields are rapidly changing. According to a study commissioned by Robert Half Legal, 30 percent of respondents stated they expected healthcare to experience the most growth in the next two years, while 14 percent replied general business and commercial law would grow the most. Paralegals with experience in litigation and compliance will also find employers who are in need of their skills. Litigation was the third area expected to have the most growth, according to the survey.
More opportunities with e-discovery: As law offices maintain leaner legal teams, they are looking to hire paralegals who are capable of performing tasks related to trial preparation and e-discovery -- duties that were typically performed by junior-level lawyers in the past. With e-discovery becoming more widely used by law firms and in-house legal departments, paralegals with previous technical training may have a leg up on the competition and demand a higher paralegal salary.
Law firms and in-house legal departments are running on tighter budgets and with fewer staff, yet they need professionals with specialized knowledge and technical skills. Paralegals at all levels of experience can take advantage of the increased demand (and in many cases, increase in paralegal salary) for their services by specializing in a fast growing area such as healthcare, and gaining technological experience in e-discovery and e-filing systems.
For information on paralegal salary compensation and legal job trends, download a complimentary copy of the Robert Half Legal Salary Guide.