One common question many people ask is, how much money does a Paralegal make? Generally, the amount of money a paralegal or legal assistant makes depends on several factors. Here is a short list of factors that could impact a legal assistant or paralegal’s base salary:
- Geographic location;
- Experience and accomplishments;
- Area of law;
- Education and training.
Without taking into consideration one’s experience, area of law, or education and training, geographic location chiefly determines the difference in the base and mean salary of a paralegal or legal assistant from coast to coast. For example, a paralegal in New York City or Los Angeles is going to make more money than a paralegal or legal assistant in smaller cities in the Southern region or Midwest region. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the annual mean salary of paralegals in Washington D.C. as the highest. http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes232011.htm
On average, a paralegal with minimal experience in New York City, New York can possibly make $55,000 to $70,000, and those with more than 10 years’ experience can possibly make from $80,000 to $100,000. In Los Angeles, California a paralegal or legal assistant with minimal experience may possibly make $46,000 to $62,000; and those with more than 10 years’ experience may possibly make $70,000 to $95,000. The salary range of Los Angeles, California paralegals is also close to the national average. http://swz.salary.com/SalaryWizard/Paralegal-IV-Salary-Details-Los-Angeles-CA.aspx
A paralegal’s experience in the area of practice also plays an important part in salary determination. Say, a paralegal who has over 10 years’ experience in real estate decides to switch his/her area to probate and estate planning. While he/she has over 10 years’ experience in the real estate practice group, this paralegal has minimal to no experience in probate and estate planning. If the move is made within the same law firm, then quite certainly his/her pay is going to remain unchanged; but if the paralegal or legal assistant move to another firm, he/she can more than likely see a reduction in pay for lack of experience in the new area of practice.
The area of law a paralegal or legal assistant is working in also makes a difference in salary paid. Certain areas of law are more specialized and more complex, and therefore a paralegal can and should expect a higher salary.
Another area that strongly influences a paralegal or legal assistant’s salary is education and training. Those who have an Associate’s of Art (AA) or Associate’s of Science (AS) degree in Paralegal Studies or those who hold a Bachelor’s degree are better compensated than those who learned on the job or who transitioned to a paralegal position from a legal secretarial position.
I have a blog post that briefly discusses how one can become a paralegal. Please feel free to check it out.