Salary is not the only thing that determines job satisfaction, but it can certainly help when recruiting talented paralegals – and convincing them to stay on board for the long term. Half (50 percent) of lawyers surveyed by Robert Half Legal said increased compensation or bonuses provide the greatest incentive for legal professionals to remain with an employer.
Many firms want to add paralegals, and salary is becoming more of a factor in recruiting and retaining professionals with the desired expertise and range of skills.
With these trends in mind, consider the following suggestions to help ensure you are offering a competitive paralegal salary:
Benchmark using objective, external salary data
Robert Half Legal publishes an annual Salary Guide that helps businesses ensure their compensation is competitive with that of other firms in your industry and region. The guide features starting salary ranges for more than 100 legal positions, along with hiring trends. The salary figures are based on a range of sources, including up-to-date interviews with hiring managers, as well as Robert Half Legal's experience making thousands of full-time, temporary and project placements each year.
Compare notes with peers
Discuss paralegal salary trends with other legal administrators or managing partners you meet through legal associations and informal industry gatherings. Their insight can be especially helpful, since it's often difficult to glean salary ranges for more tenured employees because merit raises and bonuses also figure into compensation.
Consider other factors
Do you have paralegals on staff who make value-added contributions to the organization, beyond their basic job descriptions? For example, do they manage relationships with key clients, perform administrative duties or have specialized technology knowledge? If so, these professionals may warrant a higher paralegal salary than counterparts at other firms who have more limited responsibilities. When benchmarking salaries, try to also compare factors such as the nature of job duties and tenure.
Keep the big salary picture in mind
If you offer new hires higher starting compensation than veteran paralegals on staff are earning, it may lead to retention problems if existing employees (inevitably) learn about the difference in pay. If you want to offer candidates a higher than average paralegal salary, be prepared to revisit compensation levels with existing team members, as well.
Avoiding the counteroffer conundrum
Lastly, one of the best reasons to revisit your paralegal salaries periodically is to avoid situations where you feel compelled to use a counteroffer as a retention tool. A Robert Half Legal survey indicated that 28 percent of legal employers are more willing to extend a counteroffer to retain a valued employee than they have been in the past. However, this is rarely a good idea. Managers often make counteroffers on impulse to avoid disruptions in cases or client relationships. But their actions usually backfire and the employee ends up leaving after a short time anyway.
Offering a competitive paralegal salary to new hires, and making sure compensation for existing paralegal staff is in line with industry standards, can help you avoid taking extraordinary – and potentially, ineffective – measures later to retain valued staff.