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Paralegals and Legal Assistants

Summary

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Quick Facts: Paralegals and Legal Assistants
2023 Median Pay $60,970 per year
$29.31 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Associate's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2022 354,300
Job Outlook, 2022-32 4% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2022-32 14,800

What Paralegals and Legal Assistants Do

Paralegals and legal assistants support lawyers by performing a variety of tasks, such as maintaining and organizing files, conducting legal research, and drafting documents. 

Work Environment

Paralegals and legal assistants typically work in offices for a variety of employers, including law firms and government agencies. Most work full time.

How to Become a Paralegal or Legal Assistant

Paralegals and legal assistants typically need an associate’s degree or certificate in paralegal studies to enter the occupation. Some employers prefer to hire candidates who have a bachelor’s degree; others may consider candidates who have a high school diploma and experience.

Pay

The median annual wage for paralegals and legal assistants was $60,970 in May 2023.

Job Outlook

Employment of paralegals and legal assistants is projected to grow 4 percent from 2022 to 2032, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

About 38,000 openings for paralegals and legal assistants are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for paralegals and legal assistants.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of paralegals and legal assistants with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about paralegals and legal assistants by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Paralegals and Legal Assistants Do About this section

Paralegals and legal assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants may conduct legal research.

Paralegals and legal assistants support lawyers by performing a variety of tasks, such as maintaining and organizing files, conducting legal research, and drafting documents.

Duties

Paralegals and legal assistants typically do the following:

  • Investigate and gather the facts of a case
  • Research laws, regulations, and legal articles that are relevant to a case
  • Gather, organize, and maintain legal documents
  • Draft correspondence and legal documents, such as confirmation letters and contracts
  • Obtain affidavits and other formal statements that may be used as evidence in court
  • Help lawyers during trials with tasks such as handling exhibits, taking notes, or reviewing trial transcripts
  • File exhibits, briefs, appeals, and other legal documents with the appropriate court, government agency, or opposing counsel
  • Call clients, witnesses, lawyers, and others to schedule interviews, meetings, and depositions

Paralegals and legal assistants help lawyers prepare for hearings, trials, and other proceedings. For example, they may conduct legal research, write reports and other documents, and file materials related to trials or cases.

Specific duties for paralegals and legal assistants may vary depending on the area, such as bankruptcy or intellectual property, or type of law in which they work. For example, in litigation, paralegals and legal assistants may help lawyers to prepare for trial, such as by researching case law and drafting documents, and to coordinate trial logistics, including by transporting exhibits to the courtroom and setting up equipment.

Paralegals’ and legal assistants’ roles also may vary based on the size of the firm that employs them. In small firms, for example, they may work on all aspects of a case from beginning to end. In larger firms, they may work on a particular phase of a case, such as helping to prepare witnesses for deposition or trial.

Work Environment About this section

Paralegals and legal assistants.
Most paralegals and legal assistants work in law offices.

Paralegals and legal assistants held about 354,300 jobs in 2022. The largest employers of paralegals and legal assistants were as follows:

Legal services 74%
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 5
Federal government, excluding postal service 5
Finance and insurance 4
State government, excluding education and hospitals 3

Paralegals and legal assistants often work on teams with attorneys and other legal support staff.

Paralegals and legal assistants work primarily in offices. Occasional travel may be required, such as to accompany attorneys to depositions or trials.

Their work may be stressful because it can be fast paced, and they may be required to work on multiple projects simultaneously under tight deadlines.

Work Schedules

Most paralegals and legal assistants work full time.

How to Become a Paralegal or Legal Assistant About this section

Paralegals and legal assistants
Many paralegals and legal assistants have an associate’s degree or a certificate in paralegal studies.

Paralegals and legal assistants typically need an associate’s degree or certificate in paralegal studies to enter the occupation. Some employers prefer to hire candidates who have a bachelor’s degree; others may consider candidates who have a high school diploma and experience.

Education

Prospective paralegals have several paths to enter the occupation. A common path is for candidates to earn an associate’s degree in paralegal studies from a postsecondary institution.

Some employers prefer or require candidates to have a bachelor’s degree. Many of these candidates major in a subject such as social science or business and earn a certificate in paralegal studies. 

Programs in paralegal studies, which are offered at various education levels, are accredited by the American Bar Association. These programs usually include courses in legal research, legal writing, and an introduction to law and the legal system. They also include courses in specific areas, such as criminal, family, or contract law.

Employers sometimes hire candidates who have no legal experience or legal education and train them on the job.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Although not required, some employers prefer or require candidates to have completed a paralegal certification program. Certification typically requires passage of an examination. To sit for the exam, candidates must meet eligibility requirements for educational attainment and work experience. Maintaining certification typically requires completion of a specified number of hours of continuing education.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Paralegals and legal assistants must be able to effectively document and present their research and related information to attorneys.

Detail oriented. Paralegals and legal assistants need to be precise in gathering, organizing, and filing documents and other information related to a case.

Interpersonal skills. Paralegals and legal assistants spend most of their time with clients and colleagues. They must be able to develop relationships and work well as part of a team.

Organizational skills. Paralegals and legal assistants may be responsible for many cases at one time. They must be able to keep track of documents and adapt quickly to changing deadlines.

Research skills. Paralegals and legal assistants need to gather facts of a case and study relevant laws in order to help attorneys prepare for it.

Pay About this section

Paralegals and Legal Assistants

Median annual wages, May 2023

Paralegals and legal assistants

$60,970

Legal support workers

$60,690

Total, all occupations

$48,060

 

The median annual wage for paralegals and legal assistants was $60,970 in May 2023. 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 $39,710, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $98,830.

In May 2023, the median annual wages for paralegals and legal assistants in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Finance and insurance $77,630
Federal government, excluding postal service 74,380
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 61,240
Legal services 59,660
State government, excluding education and hospitals 51,420

Most paralegals and legal assistants work full time.

Job Outlook About this section

Paralegals and Legal Assistants

Percent change in employment, projected 2022-32

Paralegals and legal assistants

4%

Legal support workers

3%

Total, all occupations

3%

 

Employment of paralegals and legal assistants is projected to grow 4 percent from 2022 to 2032, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

About 38,000 openings for paralegals and legal assistants are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

Law firms will continue to be the largest employer of paralegals and legal assistants, as these workers are needed to help prepare and organize legal documents. However, many large corporations are increasing their in-house legal departments to cut costs. This should lead to an increase in the demand for legal workers in a variety of settings.

Employment projections data for paralegals and legal assistants, 2022-32
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2022 Projected Employment, 2032 Change, 2022-32 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Paralegals and legal assistants

23-2011 354,300 369,100 4 14,800 Get data

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS)

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OEWS data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.org. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of paralegals and legal assistants.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help on Entry-Level Education 2023 MEDIAN PAY Help on Median Pay
Claims adjusters, appraisers, examiners, and investigators Claims Adjusters, Appraisers, Examiners, and Investigators

Claims adjusters, appraisers, examiners, and investigators evaluate insurance claims.

See How to Become One $75,020
Lawyers Lawyers

Lawyers advise and represent clients on legal proceedings or transactions.

Doctoral or professional degree $145,760
Secretaries and administrative assistants Secretaries and Administrative Assistants

Secretaries and administrative assistants do routine clerical and organizational tasks.

High school diploma or equivalent $46,010
arbitrators mediators and conciliators image Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators

Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators facilitate negotiation and dialogue between disputing parties to help resolve conflicts outside of the court system.

Bachelor's degree $71,540
Judges, mediators, and hearing officers Judges and Hearing Officers

Judges and hearing officers oversee legal matters in court or administrative proceedings.

Doctoral or professional degree $132,950
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Paralegals and Legal Assistants,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/legal/paralegals-and-legal-assistants.htm (visited July 12, 2024).

Last Modified Date: Monday, April 22, 2024

What They Do

The What They Do tab describes the typical duties and responsibilities of workers in the occupation, including what tools and equipment they use and how closely they are supervised. This tab also covers different types of occupational specialties.

Work Environment

The Work Environment tab includes the number of jobs held in the occupation and describes the workplace, the level of physical activity expected, and typical hours worked. It may also discuss the major industries that employed the occupation. This tab may also describe opportunities for part-time work, the amount and type of travel required, any safety equipment that is used, and the risk of injury that workers may face.

How to Become One

The How to Become One tab describes how to prepare for a job in the occupation. This tab can include information on education, training, work experience, licensing and certification, and important qualities that are required or helpful for entering or working in the occupation.

Pay

The Pay tab describes typical earnings and how workers in the occupation are compensated—annual salaries, hourly wages, commissions, tips, or bonuses. Within every occupation, earnings vary by experience, responsibility, performance, tenure, and geographic area. For most profiles, this tab has a table with wages in the major industries employing the occupation. It does not include pay for self-employed workers, agriculture workers, or workers in private households because these data are not collected by the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) survey, the source of BLS wage data in the OOH.

State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's CareerOneStop.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

The Similar Occupations tab describes occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile.

Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2023 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics survey. In May 2023, the median annual wage for all workers was $48,060.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2022

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2022, which is the base year of the 2022-32 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2022-32

The projected percent change in employment from 2022 to 2032. The average growth rate for all occupations is 3 percent.

Employment Change, 2022-32

The projected numeric change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2022-32

The projected numeric change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2022 to 2032.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

2023 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics survey. In May 2023, the median annual wage for all workers was $48,060.