Employment of paralegals and legal assistants is projected to grow 15 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations.
As law firms try to increase the efficiency of legal services and reduce their costs, they are expected to hire more paralegals and legal assistants. In these cases, paralegals and legal assistants can take on a “hybrid” role within the firm, performing not only traditional paralegal duties but also some of the tasks previously assigned to legal secretaries or other legal support workers.
Law firms also are attempting to reduce billing costs as clients push for less expensive legal services. Due to their lower billing rates to clients, paralegals can be a less costly alternative to lawyers, performing a wide variety of tasks once done by entry-level lawyers. This should cause an increase in demand for paralegals and legal assistants.
Although law firms will continue to be the largest employers of paralegals, many large corporations are increasing their in-house legal departments to cut costs. For many companies, the high cost of outside counsel makes it more economical to have an in-house legal department. This will lead to an increase in the demand for legal workers in a variety of settings, such as finance and insurance firms, consulting firms, and healthcare providers.
Technology and Paralegals
Due to the rise of electronic discovery, formally trained paralegals with strong computer and database management skills should have the best job prospects.
|Occupational Title||SOC Code||Employment, 2016||Projected Employment, 2026||Change, 2016-26||Employment by Industry|
|Paralegals and legal assistants||23-2011||285,600||327,400||15||41,800|
|SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program|
Average Pay for Paralegals/Legal Assistants
The median annual wage for paralegals and legal assistants was $50,940 in May 2018. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $31,400, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $82,050.
In May 2018, the median annual wages for paralegals and legal assistants in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:
|Finance and insurance||62,020|
|Local government, excluding education and hospitals||50,400|
|State government, excluding education and hospitals||46,970|
Most paralegals and legal assistants work full time. Some may work more than 40 hours per week in order to meet deadlines.