Starting Salaries Looking Up
compensation increases and niche-area demand.
By Janet Roberts
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.
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
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