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Starting Salaries Looking Up
Guide predicts compensation increases and niche-area demand.
By Janet Roberts
March/April 2006 Issue

Paralegal salaries are on the rise in 2006, and employment opportunities are increasing in many law firms and corporate legal departments, according to the Robert Half Legal 2006 Salary Guide. Average starting salaries for the legal profession are expected to rise 6.1 percent this year, with salaries for paralegals expected to increase 5.6 percent.

Senior paralegals with more than seven years experience at large law firms (more than 75 attorneys, according to the guide) can expect to see a 6.9 percent increase in salary, while their counterparts in small law firms (up to 10 attorneys) can expect a 4.4 percent increase. Junior paralegals (four to six years of experience) at small/mid-sized law firms (10 to 35 attorneys) can expect to see salaries rise 7.1 percent, according to the guide.

Robert Half Legal, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based staffing service that specializes in job placement for attorneys, paralegals and other skilled legal professionals, compiled the guide. Information is based on job orders and placements handled by Robert Half Legal, as well as local and national employment data gathered by Robert Half Legal offices throughout the United States and Canada.

The guide shows the legal profession’s highest growth is in practice areas such as real estate, intellectual property, litigation, ethics and corporate governance. According to Charles Volkert, executive director of Robert Half Legal, because of growth in real estate, there now is a high demand everywhere for real estate paralegals, not only in law firms, but also with homebuilders and real estate companies.

The guide also shows compliance law as a hot new career trend. Law firms and in-house legal departments seek paralegals adept at U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings and Sarbanes-Oxley compliance. They also need paralegals who know how to use software and hardware designed for e-filing, according to the guide.

Volkert said he sees law firms staffing junior paralegals who have two to three years of experience and a good background in technology and e-filing. Mid-level paralegals with good technology skills and experience in anti-trust or product liability litigation also are in demand.

“Anytime a paralegal with two to three years of experience can increase his or her skill level on CT Sum­mation, [Dataflight Software Inc.’s] Concor­dance or even Microsoft Excel, he or she becomes more marketable,” Volkert said.

Sadie M. Bispham, PP, PLS, president of NALS of Atlanta…the association for legal professionals, said she also sees an increased demand by larger firms for litigation and real estate paralegals, but in contrast to the guide, she said the demand still is for more experience with junior paralegals struggling to get their foot in the door at many firms. Bispham, who is a legal assistant with sole practitioner William G. Quinn III in Georgia, said she keeps abreast of paralegal trends through her work with NALS, as well as through networking with members of the Georgia Assoc­iation of Paralegals. She said she currently sees the highest litigation needs in the areas of product liability and medical malpractice, while corporate legal departments want paralegals to be familiar with Sarbanes-Oxley, but it’s not a rigid requirement.

With the niche areas for paralegals to work in constantly evolving, Bispham said she encourages paralegals not to concentrate only on one type of law. “Firms are diversifying,” she said. “I always suggest paralegals stay current on their skill sets and continue to educate themselves in new areas.”

To order a free copy of the 2006 salary guide, visit www.roberthalflegal.com.


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Updated 08/30/07
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