What is a Paralegal?
In the majority of jurisdictions, a paralegal is a term used to describe a paraprofessional who assists legal professionals, most commonly qualified lawyers, in their day to day legal work. In the United States, paralegals are not authorized by any government body or governmental agency to offer legal services nor are they subject to the government or court sanctioned rules of conduct.
In the United States a paralegal is in essence, a lawyer’s assistant. The paralegal works under the direct supervision of their coordinating legal professional; the paralegal will provide administrative assistance to streamline the attorney’s day-to-day work.
In the United States, a paralegal cannot set fees, give legal advice, appear as counsel of record in court or sign pleadings (and other legal or court documents) in a representative fashion. If a paralegal attempts to fulfill any of these roles, which are distinctly reserved for an attorney, they will be in direct violation of the unauthorized practice of law statutes that are present in the majority of states in America.
That being said, paralegals are found in all areas of law within the United States; a paralegal can aid a lawyer working in a criminal trial, the family court of law, real estate, estate planning, government positions or civil matters.
The majority of paralegals, roughly 70%, work for law firms. A paralegal will perform many duties at a much lower salary then the attorneys who they work for. That being said, the paralegal salary is still relatively high; the paralegal salary is especially high considering there are no official requirements to become a paralegal.
The majority of paralegals will take care of the day to day duties and tasks for an attorney; the most common functions of a paralegal include the following: meeting with clients and witnesses, researching the laws and aspects pertinent to a particular legal case, drafting legal documents for their coordinating attorney and assisting attorneys with trial preparation during various legal proceedings.
The paralegal salary will differentiate based on the location of the law firm as well as the particular law office in which the paralegal works. Furthermore, the paralegal salary will vary by industry; for example, a paralegal working for a state government will obtain a different paralegal salary than an individual working for a private law firm.
The below table will list the average paralegal salaries for various industries; additionally the below table will provide a range for the highest and lowest paralegal salaries:
Lowest Paralegal Salary= $27,450 per year
Average Paralegal Salary=$43,040 per year
Highest Paralegal Salary=$67,540
Paralegal Salary for an individual who works for the Federal Government: $56,080 per year
Paralegal Salary for an individual who works for a Local Government: $42,170 per year
Paralegal Salary who works for Local Services Industry: $41,460 per year
Paralegal Salary who works for a State Government: $38,020 per year