Saturday, October 16, 2010

Paralegal Salary

It has finally happend. Its official. I am losing my mind because of the legal profession.

Let me explain....

So on Friday I went to another job interview. It was for an entry level paralegal position, and I would only be working for a solo practioner. He does workers compensation work, and was looking for someone to help draft all the pleadings and take care of court documents that need to be filed with the clerk.

The attorney himself was a nice guy and said he really needed help. After all, with the economy being so bad and so many injured workers out of a job, they need their claims filed asap!

So Weasel* the Workers Compensation Attorney was really eager to hire me to work for him as a Paralegal.

His office was clean, well organized, and in a very nice building. There was even a special guard at the bottom of the building, allowing only certain people to up to the 7th floor. I was feeling really good about this job. After all, the attorney called me back, he had a professional office, I saw his diplomas on the wall, and so I knew this was legit!

Weasel* was friendly on the phone, and invited me back for 2 rounds of interviews. After my first interviews, he brought me in one last time to make sure I would be a good fit for the company. I sat in his office waiting anxiously like you can't imagine. I was just waiting for Weasel to burst inside with the W-4, I-9, at will employee contract and non fraternization policy!  I was more excited than an overweight, bald, and middle aged fat man at a KISS concert!

He then came inside, sat down and showed me all those wonderful documents. He told me how I would be dealing with professionals, going to the court house, and how I would have to follow the strict dress code. Then he began to talk about the compensation for this position...and he said..

"There were many applicants for this paralegal position, but we chose you , and we are offering a competitive wage of $9.50 an hour..."

And right then I told him "Excuse me? Only 9.50 an hour for this job? Isn't that a little low? That is just above minimum wage..."

Then Weasel* gave me some BS about how its a proven performance salary and that once I prove myself it will move up to 10 bucks an hour, and I told him "Thanks but no thanks!"

And then I left his office.


Listen Folks,

Now, I would love to make a decent living, and I even have some temp agencies that have started to call me back for jobs that pay $12-15 bucks an hour. Don't get me wrong, I would love to be an entry level paralegal and pay my dues, but for 9.50 an hour? GIVE ME A FUCKING BREAK!!

I mean I need a living wage. My last job before I got laid off in The "Great Recession" paid me $55,000 plus bonus and commission. I am not asking for millions of dollars and  I am not trying to be a job snob, but its fucking disgusting how employers are exploiting workers now in the "Great Recession"

I am beginning to realize that I will have to look outside the legal profession to actually find a living wage. Its fucking disgusting how employers are exploiting workers since they know there are so many people unemployed who need jobs, so they will offer low wages since everyone needs a job.

I think I will seriously start looking at non legal jobs and return to Inside Sales/Contracts Management. If employees want to keep on paying paralegals these shit wages, then maybe the legal profession is not for me. Now, whenever I see a legal job posting on the internet, I want to go crazy and kill my computer. Every time I see a shit law job, I feel like the people in the video above...

-The Poor Paralegal

*Name has been changed and/or protected to protect privacy of a$$holes in the legal profession


  1. "I am beginning to realize that I will have to look outside the labor market and into organized crime to actually find a living wage."

  2. You might consider the possibility that the attorney barely has money for gas & groceries. It is very hard to make a dollar as an attorney in private practice. It may be that he can't afford it; not that he's an asshole. Most people don't realize that the vast majority of attorneys barely can make ends meet. It's not something you want to advertise, either. You should be learning that private law practices don't make much money, not that the people who run them are assholes. You have to wake up and smell the coffee - you got taken for a ride with your education - you need to move on with your life.

  3. Thank you for reading!

    I did wake up this morning and smell the tea (I don't drink coffee!)

    You are 100% correct! Many solo practioners struggle, don't have a lot of money, and most are not a$$holes. However, when you advertise "very competitive salary" for less than 10 bucks an hour, it's a bit deceiving, don't you think?

    I am trying to move on with my life, and I am taking night classes for another field that is in HUGE demand and doing part time jobs here and there. Mostly in construction and household stuff, but I am still trying to find a paralegal jobs.

    I am not a quitter, so I won't give up. However, I am trying to move on with my life as best as I can!

  4. Actually, plenty of private practice attorneys are making hundreds of thousands of dollars per year (after all expenses), and still only hiring associate attorneys at $40k and paralegals at $22k.

    They ARE assholes.

  5. P - That's not a very competitve salary - so that's a good point as to false advertising. I find your site interesting - I always thought there was too much unrealistic information for paralegals.

    J - it may be true in some cases, but the general rule is that lower paying offices are offices that make less money. Generally, well paid professionals will pay their staff very well. There are always exceptions, and all you can do is avoid them.

  6. attorney in a saturated marketOctober 23, 2010 at 1:09 PM

    To be honest, I am a solo attorney surviving using a virtual office that lets me rent its meeting room space for a couple of hours a week. I cannot afford receptionist, paralegal etc.
    Maybe your solo is struggling. Unfortunately, as an attorney I play the part of a successful attorney, pretending to be more busy than I really am- trust me, nobody wants a struggling attorney. the field is oversaturated and my attorney friends are struggling just like me. I survive through a combination of part-time nonlegal work and my legal work. This is the only way I can build up experience as an attorney. So to all the paralegals out there - please be understanding - the 'rich hotshot attorney' facade that we put out is just a necessary part of our marketing, not our reality. most of us are barely making ends meet.

  7. As an inexperienced paralegal, frankly, you should have taken the $9.50/hour job, and possibly worked a second job if necessary to makes ends meet. Yes, it would have stunk working for that kind of a wage, but with 2-3 years experience you would then be in the "sweet spot" for finding that next job.

    When I graduated as a paralegal a couple years ago, I took a $12/hour job doing the most boring insurance defense work you could imagine. I literally got a sick feeling in my stomach every morning on my way to work. But it was a stepping stone.

    Fast forward to today...I am a sports law paralegal (yes, there really is such a thing) making $73K/year plus a 15% annual bonus, plus a generous benefits package. My total compensation is around $93K.

    How did I do it? I hustled. I networked. I wasn't afraid to ask for things. I insisted on employers giving me "informational interviews". One of these employers saw that I was the type of person who knew what I wanted, and would work as hard as necessary to get it, and hired me.

    Now, I know that my salary is above the norm, and I'm not claiming that there are all kinds of $70K+ paralegal jobs out there for the taking. What I AM claiming, is that if you chart your own course and are willing to do WHATEVER IT TAKES, you can find what you're looking for.

    Frankly, most people don't want to do what it takes, to get where they want to go. As you post shows, most people feel "entitled" to a certain wage or a certain quality of life. There ARE jobs out there. What are you doing, to differentiate yourself from the 100 other people applying for the same job?

    1. That is what I want to specialize in!! What advice or anything you can offer to help me. I love sports, very active, have a great work ethic and outgoing personality but professional. I would really appreciate it. Missie Pearson.

  8. Dude,

    Too bad you're not a chick; you'd be SWIMMING in job offers! Oh, and employers would be scared spitless to fire you, because you could always play the sex discrimination card...


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  10. I can respect where you are coming from. If there was a great deal of work involved and the hours were very demanding, I can see how you can be put off at less than $10 per hour. I know some like to pass judgment, however if the hours were demanding, it would have been difficult to hold a second job.

    I have over ten (10) years experience as a paralegal in NY and it has been a very difficult market on the east coast. It seems that those who have more than 5+ years of experience are having a harder time to find work. I was downsized in 2008, in which I was a contract administrator for an import beer company. I have struggled to find work since being laid-off.

    You may want to reconsider your next offer if it is reasonable, or the hours will enable you to obtain a second job. As you may already be aware, the legal market is very tight right now.

    All the best.

  11. After I graduated from law school I was desperate for any work. I had a $300/month car note plus other bills and needed income. I was unlicensed and landed a unpaid clerk/receptionist position at solo law firm where I was paid $6.50/hour for gas/food reimbursement. After 3 months, I was given a raise of $9/hour. At that same time I worked a retail job that paid around the same amount of money. Needless to say, I didn't last long - not because I wasn't getting good experience, but because I was grossly underpaid. My solo firm had two attorneys who both made 6 figure salaries (I know because I processed their payroll information). I asked for a raise, was denied and sought out non-legal opportunities including countless temp agency positions.

    Two years later, I finally have a full-time job that's in business/sales. I'm really happy because I have benefits and make mid-40k/year. Money is still really tight, especially since my credit cards were my lifeline during my part-time lifestyle, but I at least I can see a light at the job or not.

  12. I know your blog is from 2010 and I hope you have found a realistic salary, but the job market for paralegals hasn't changed much from 2010, in some cases it's worse. I cannot believe what even high-powered personal injury firms are paying. In 2003 in Atlanta I made $50,000, moved to Jacksonville, Florida with my husband and got a $44,000 job (the Jax market is lower), and accepted that because of the market. I then became a stay at home mom for a few years and got back into the market where jobs are going for anywhere from $8.00/hr to $12.00/hr with few and far between positions offering a whopping $15.00/hr. I have 27 years of experience and had offers (with a straight face) of $22,000/yr. How can anybody live on that? I now work two PT jobs ($22.15 and $16/hr) averaging $19/hr. I responded to one $8/hr position (the firm claimed to be a busy, successful personal injury firm) by asking if they had been to the grocery store or the gas station lately. Naturally, I didn't get a response. Funny how these same attorneys could afford to pay real wages up until the recession and now suddenly can't. If they can't do better than that, they need to look for another profession themselves. And you're exactly right -- it's disgusting exploitation of the current circumstances.

  13. Anonymous.. nailed it. he is absolutely right.

  14. Never settle for less than you are worth because it sets a precedence for the industry.You can make $9.00 an hour at a convenience store or anyplace that only requires a high school diploma. The paralegal field is a "profession" and should be treated as such. It is very demanding and stressful career. Most firms require formal paralegal education, an associates and some firms even require a bachelors degree in addition to the specialized paralegal training. In order to work as a paralegal, you need superior verbal communication, excellent writing skills and an analytical mind with a knowledge of law. Moreover, you must have knowledge of of legal computer programs such as Lexis Nexis or Westlaw. Even $12 an hour is a an insult added to injury. Do Not take the low wage because the attorney are skilled story tellers and manipulators. As long as you keep eating whatever they dish out, they will continue to feed you lines of bs and low wages.