Is there a bright future for Paralegals?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics is out with their 2020 Occupational Outlook for Paralegals and Legal Assistants.
Bottom line – it’s not a bad time to be in, or to be getting into, a paralegal or legal assistant position*.
Consider these findings:
o Median annual pay is $51,750, compared with $39,800 for all occupations in the US.
o 80% of paralegals and legal assistants earn between $32-82,000.
o The federal government, finance, and insurance sectors pay the most, with a median income above $84,000 per year.
o Employment of paralegals and legal assistants is expected to grow by 10% over the next 10 years, much faster than the 4% for all occupations in the US economy.
States with the most paralegals are CA, FL, NY, TX, and IL. The highest pay for paralegals and legal assistants is in DC, CO, CA, MA, and WA.
Bottom line – it’s not a bad time to be in, or to be getting into, a paralegal or legal assistant position.
If you’d like to “just get away,” consider these top-paying non-metropolitan areas for paralegals and legal assistants:
o Northwest Colorado
o Central New Hampshire
o North Coast of California
Or, the non-metropolitan places where there are the most jobs:
● North Carolina Piedmont area
● Central Kentucky
● Southwest Montana
● Southeast coastal North Carolina
The life of the paralegal is not all rosy, of course; here are a few cautions:
o Stress – The American Bar Association has recently discussed stress as a significant issue for paralegals. Unfortunately, stress among paralegal staff is not as well addressed as attorney stress. Good tools, such as a cloud-based matter management system, can significantly reduce stress among paralegals, especially those expected to bill by the hour.
o Limited ceiling – you very likely never will be the boss of a law firm if you do not have a law degree.
o Respect - routine tasks like repetitive data entry, invoice preparation, entering client and billing information, filing, and document management often fall upon paralegals. A cloud-based document management system can virtually eliminate these repetitive tasks and increase the time you have for higher profile matters.
If you are considering an exit strategy, the US Department of Labor has identified related positions that do not require a JD degree that offer greater compensation, including claims adjusting, mediating and conciliation services.
In the meantime, you can build both your expertise and job satisfaction by becoming proficient in a cutting edge technology, and/or gaining a new certification. Whichever direction you’re headed, the future looks bright for the paralegal profession.
By Aline Martin O’Brien!
Aline Martin-O’Brien has a Masters in Theory and Practice of Procedural Law from the University of Paris: Panthéon–Sorbonne. After practicing as an attorney for many years, she now lives and writes in Florida for Smokeball.