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About Paralegals


What is a "Paralegal"


The term "paralegal" (a person qualified through education, training or work experience, to perform substantive legal work that requires knowledge of legal concepts and is customarily, but not exclusively, performed by a lawyers) was coined in 1968. Since then the legal profession has developed, encouraged, increased the training and utilization of nonlawyer assistants, PARALEGALS, to enable lawyers, the court system, and the criminal an civil justice system to discharge their professional responsibilities more effectively and efficiently. Paralegals are employed or retained by lawyers, law offices, governmental agency, or other entity or may be authorized by administrative, statutory or court authority to perform this work." - see http://www.answers.com/topic/paralegal#after_ad2 and also information at wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paralegal



History of the Paralegal Profession


In the early to mid 1960's, law firms provided in-house training to experienced legal secretaries.


In the 1970's to the mid 90's there emerged diversified paralegal educational programs including in August of 1997, the state of the art, internet-world wide web page of L.A. Mission College Paralegal Studies Program which now allows students to work on their assignments from home, email their work to their law instructors, to take exams, receive and review the answers to exams, and see their exam grades, all posted, daily, and sometimes hourly, on the home webpage for the Paralegal Studies Program. Paralegal Students can access all of the current and past California cases and codes, federal codes, recent U.S. Constitutional case decisions. They can review summaries of legal topics, along with the syllabus for their course, class assignments which include interactive links to current cases and codes, and they can even register for their law classes on the home webpage.

Employment Opportunities


Demand for Paralegals: In the early 1980s the U.S. Department of Labor told the nation that the paralegal profession was the fastest growing profession and that by the year 2000, there would be 100,000 paralegals in the nation. According to

predictions released in 1995 by the Department of Labor, by the year 2005 there will be between 150,000 and 176,000 paralegals in this nation.


Types of Employers: law firms, corporations and corporate legal departments, financial institutions, insurance companies, real estate and title agencies, state and federal governmental agencies, courts, public defenders' and prosecutors' offices,

public utility companies, publicly, funded legal service projects and community legal service programs. The number of contract paralegals is on the rise on a national level, but more dominant in large metropolitan cities. Mission College Paralegal Program works very hard to place its graduates in the "best suited" paralegal jobs


Compensation and Benefits


The most recent survey by the National Association of Legal Assistants - "NALA"

see http://www.nala.org/Survey_Table.htm


year salary bonus total compensation

1997 $36,435 $2062 $38,497

2000 $40,974 $2449 $43,423

2002 $46,074 $2909 $48,983

2004 $46,862 $3393 $50,255


The median expected salary for a typical Paralegal I in Los Angeles, CA 90035, is $45,116. This basic market pricing report was prepared using our Certified Compensation Professionals' analysis of survey data collected from thousands of HR departments at employers of all sizes, industries and geographies.


Following the events of Sept. 11 and the apparent deepening of the U.S. recession, many paralegals might think their share of the financial pie has spoiled. Not so, according to Legal Assistant Today’s (LAT) 2001 National Salary Survey. In fact, in 2001 legal assistants as a whole enjoyed one of the largest slices of increased salaries in more than six years, according to LAT’s findings. The average salary for paralegals in 2001 increased by an amazing 9.4 percent over 2000’s salaries, reaching $41,599 in a year marked by steep economic decline. In addition, 70.6 percent of respondents indicated they received a bonus, averaging nationally at about $3,058. While the nation was largely concerned with safety and the ability of workers to put food on the table last year, paralegals continued to enjoy the just desserts of a growing profession.


In an interesting comparison, according to LAT’s 1995 Salary Survey, the average paralegal salary was then just $31,503. In the last six years, paralegals have seen their salaries increase by an average of $1,700 per year. Additionally, the largest year-to-year percentage increase in recent memory was just 4.9 percent when comparing 1996 salaries to their counterparts in 1995. At the close of 2001, LAT found salaries increased by nearly twice as much.


Mary Ellen Perkins, president of the Legal Assistant Management Association (LAMA), said she was surprised at hearing of a nearly 10 percent salary growth rate between 2000 and 2001. http://www.legalassistanttoday.com/profession/howbig.htm


Career Options for students enrolled in this program include:


The U.S. Department of Labor has named the legal assistant profession one of the fastest growing careers. Between the years1992 and 2005, the jobs in the profession are projected to grow by 86%.*


According to a 1996 survey conducted by Legal Assistant Today, a national paralegal magazine, the average salary of experienced paralegals (average and nine years of experience) nationwide was $32,415 excluding bonuses. According to a 1995 survey, those with less than one year of experience earned an average of $23,017.**


A 1993 survey conducted by the national Federation of Paralegal Associations reported the following breakdown of entry-level paralegals:


8.8 per cent between $14,000 and $16,000

16.6 per cent between $16,000 and $18,000

14.8 per cent between $18,000 and $20,000

14.7 per cent between $20,000 and $22,000

18.3 per cent between $22,000 and $25,000***


*Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Quarterly (Fall 1993)




An American Bar Association 1984 survey indicated that the average paralegal salary was $20,500 in the public sector and $27,700 for those employed by the federal government.


Paralegal specialists hired by the federal government in 1991 had starting salaries from $17,000 to $21,000 a year, depending upon their education and experience.


NFPA 1993 survey results revealed that salaries range from $10,000 to $84,000 with the average $29,607. Entry level salaries averaged 18,000 to $20,000, with paralegals possessing three to five years experience at $28-31,000. Bonuses averaged $1,565. Employers paid life and health insurance benefits as well as paralegal professional dues.


1995 Findings of Paralegal Compensation and Benefits Survey revealed the following national average: Salary - $32,875; bonus - $ 1,869; 86% of the respondents receiving benefits including: 91% vacation; 80% paid sick leave; 70% life insurance; 54% fully paid medical; 45% pension or retirement plan; 63% 401K-type savings plan. The average billing rate of the respondents is $41-80.


Results from a recent Compensation in Legal and Law Related Jobs (non-law firms) survey conducted by Abbott, Langer & Associates stated the median salary for paralegals is $36,500, with 10% making over $51,000.


Benefits of Paralegals to the Legal Profession


As attorneys understand the nature of education that qualifies paralegals to perform legally substantive tasks, attorneys can delegate more challenging tasks and increased responsibility to paralegals. As attorneys understand the complex level of legal work paralegals are capable of performing, attorneys can utilize paralegal services better and recognize paralegals as respected members of the legal team. If attorneys understand that through providing continuing legal education to paralegals means, their knowledge and capabilities will improve, the CLE can be linked directly to the quality and quantity of work produced.


When paralegals perform specifically delegated and supervised legally substantive work, attorneys are able to concentrate on more complex legal work. Productivity is increased through utilizing paralegal services. Cost efficiency is maximized through utilizing paralegal services -- attorneys save their clients money by utilizing paralegal services.


Future Trends


As standards for the paralegal profession -- qualifications, responsibilities and regulation -- are established and recognized, paralegal roles and responsibilities will be expanded. Technological advances such as the Internet will create new roles for paralegals in assisting attorneys to conduct more cost-efficient research and produce more specialized presentations.Credits and acknowledgements: article by Susan D. Kligerman, Paralegal/President Paralegal Enterprises Inc.


information on how to calculate your salary as a paralegal



Paralegals generally start at the Paralegal I position. The Paralegal 1 job description is as follows:

  • Provides support to attorneys. Under the direction of an attorney, resolves routine legal issues. Researches and analyzes law sources such as statutes, recorded judicial decisions, legal articles, treaties, constitutions, and legal codes to prepare legal documents, such as briefs, pleadings, appeals, wills, contracts, etc. May require an associate's degree or its equivalent and 0-2 years of experience in the field or in a related area. Has knowledge of commonly-used concepts, practices, and procedures within a particular field. Relies on instructions and pre-established guidelines to perform the functions of the job. Works under immediate supervision; typically reports to an attorney.

Alternate Job Titles:

Law Clerk I Legal Aid I Legal Assistant I Level I Paralegal Paralegal I


starting salary - 91342

click here low $34,768 high $61,875

paralegal jobs - < click here

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