(Newtown Square, PA, June 29, 2006) -- The 2006 Annual Compensation Survey for Paralegals / Legal Assistants and Managers has just been released. The survey, which reports on ten levels of paralegal positions in law firms and corporate law departments, was conducted by Altman Weil Publications, Inc. in partnership with the International Paralegal Management Association (IPMA).
The Survey shows modest increases in median total cash compensation for most paralegal positions in 2006. In law firms, median billing rates for paralegals were up significantly.
“As the paralegal profession becomes more sophisticated, paralegals continue to add value to their organizations and increase their earning power as a result,” notes Altman Weil principal James S. Wilber. “In law firms, increased billing rates create added revenue for the firm and potentially additional profits as well.”
Nationally, the median salary for Paralegals is $50,000 according to the survey. An annual bonus adds $2,000 to cash compensation. 69.1% of Paralegals in law firms and 62.5% of those in law departments reported receiving an annual bonus.
Median overtime compensation is reported at $3,922/year. 76.2% of eligible, non-exempt law firm Paralegals and 33% of eligible law department Paralegals receive overtime compensation. Total cash compensation nationally for the Paralegal position is $55,014, up 3.9% from 2005.
Law Firms vs. Law Departments
Nationwide, Paralegals in law firms earn 10.4% more in median total cash compensation than Paralegals in law departments. In other paralegal positions, the difference is more pronounced: Legal Assistant Managers in law firms earn 29.4% more; Senior Legal Assistants earn 25.9% more; and, Specialists take home 23.2% more in total cash compensation than their law department peers.
“There are two primary reasons for the difference,” says Wilber. “Most law department paralegals don’t earn overtime and those who do receive only a fraction of what law firm paralegals do. In addition, paralegal compensation trends with organization size, and there are a lot more large law firms.”
Paralegals working in the IP/Patent/Trademark practice earn the highest total cash compensation in both law firms ($61,918) and law departments ($58,291). The lowest-paying practice in law firms is Regulatory/Utilities at $41,513, and in law departments, Government/Legislative at $33,561.
The survey found median billing rates ranging from $95/hour for Paralegal Clerks to $150/hour for Paralegals and topping out at $210/hour for Paralegal Case Managers. Billing rates were up across the board for all ten paralegal positions reporting, including a 17.6% increase for Legal Assistant Managers, a 13.5% increase for Case Managers, an 11.8% increase for Paralegal Clerks, and a 7.1% increase for Paralegals.
Paralegals in law firms billed a median 1,426 hours/year in 2005, down 2.9% from the previous year. Insurance Paralegals logged the highest number of hours at 1,600/year, followed by Litigation Paralegals at 1,495/year. Paralegals with a Regulatory/Utilities specialty billed the least, at 1,024 hours/year.
Data Collection and Reporting
The 2006 Annual Compensation Survey for Paralegals / Legal Assistants and Managers is based on data collected in 2006 from 261 law firms and 80 law departments and encompasses a total of 12,381 paralegal positions.
The Survey reports on ten distinct paralegal positions. Law firm and law department data is reported cumulatively and comparatively. Data was collected on salary, overtime, bonus, total cash compensation, benefits, billable hours, and billing rates – and is reported by position, type and size of organization, location, exempt/non-exempt status, years in the profession, and practice area where applicable.
About Altman Weil
Altman Weil Publications, Inc. conducts and publishes numerous surveys on the legal profession including the Survey of Law Firm Economics and the Law Department Compensation Benchmarking Survey. For additional information or to purchase a survey, visit our website at www.altmanweil.com/ParalegalComp.
The International Paralegal Management Association (IPMA), formerly known as the Legal Assistant Management Association, promotes the development, professional standing and visibility of paralegal management professionals. More information on IPMA can be found at www.paralegalmanagement.org.
James S. Wilber
Altman Weil, Inc.
International Paralegal Management Association
Order the survey: www.altmanweil.com/ParalegalComp