The legal assistant salary has been on the rise in recent years across law firms and corporate legal departments of all sizes, according to the Robert Half Legal Salary Guide research. As employers expand the duties of legal support professionals to keep up with growing caseloads and client demands, even an above average legal assistant salary may not seem like adequate compensation to those wearing many hats.
In fact, as noted in Robert Half Legal's Future Law Office report, Client Dynamics Driving Change in the Legal Profession, it is increasingly common for legal assistants to take on duties that traditionally were assigned to paralegals — or were handled by associates and partners.
Employers' heightened expectations make it imperative for legal support professionals to look at more than just financial compensation when weighing job opportunities. Following are some examples of benefits that can add value to a legal assistant salary package.
Work-life balance programs
In a survey by Robert Half Legal, attorneys cited flexible work hours and telecommuting practices as the top perks for legal professionals. The ability to control your schedule can be invaluable. It helps ensure you can make enough time for your family and friends, as well as activities outside of work that are important to you — and enhance your well-being.
Professional development opportunities
Fifty percent of lawyers polled for the same Robert Half Legal survey said free or subsidized professional training and education were incentives they used to recruit and retain top legal talent. Look for an employer willing to give you the time (and, perhaps, financial support) to pursue in-demand certifications that could help you earn a higher legal assistant salary, such as the Accredited Legal Professional designation or Advanced Paralegal Certification.
Access to technology training can also be an added bonus. Legal support professionals with knowledge of case management software, litigation and eDiscovery programs are highly sought after by many employers today, according to Robert Half Legal's Future Law Office report, Technology Reshapes the Legal Profession. In fact, lawyers surveyed ranked technical proficiency second (behind practice area knowledge) as the attribute that makes legal support professionals the most marketable.
Opportunities to do meaningful work
Robert Half Legal asked attorneys to cite their greatest legal career concern, and the top response (26 percent) was the lack of the ability to do meaningful work. If you do not find your work fulfilling as a legal support professional, it is unlikely that even the most generous legal assistant salary will fill the void. During the interview process, ask a potential employer what the organization does to help ensure employees feel good about their legal careers. For example, do they offer free legal service to nonprofit organizations; maintain a corporate social responsibility program; or actively support charities, causes, or the community?
Of course, you always want to ensure you are earning a competitive legal assistant salary. But your paycheck is only one aspect of your job. Depending on the nature of your responsibilities, the culture of the law firm or legal department, and your employer's expectations, other benefits — including non-financial perks — may prove to be more rewarding to you than the legal assistant salary you will earn.
Want to determine legal assistant salary ranges for your local area? Use Robert Half Legal's Salary Calculator to get a customized compensation report.