New Survey Shows Paralegal Salaries Going Down

Chasing dollars  
Not so good news out here in the paralegal world. The new 2010 Salary Guide from Robert Half Legal just published, shows that paralegal salaries are dipping. The salary guide is a review of actual starting salaries in 2009 and an extrapolation of these trends into 2010. 

Salaries have dropped from between .02% and 3.7% nationwide.  Senior Paralegals (7+ years) are experiencing a decline from -02.% to -2.8% in large law firms.  Salaries in large law firms for seniors ranged anywhere from $60,750 – $83,500 but are expected to drop to $59,750 – $80,500 in 2010.

The largest declines in salaries seem to be for midlevel paralegals (4-6 years experience) in small law firms of 2.5% or from $38,500 – $51,000 down to $37,750 – $49,500.  The junior paralegal (2-3 years experience) seems to be suffering the most with a drop of 3.7% or from $32,500 – $41,000 to $31,000 – $39,750.  The salaries represented are national figures.  The guide does give a formula to calculate salaries for your region.

The only category that seems to be barely touched are midsize law firms (35-75 attorneys).  These firms show 0.0% – 0.6% decline.

Of course, we have all heard about the drop in attorney salaries that range anywhere from 0.3% – 5.4%. Starting salaries for 1-3 years in a large law from went from $117,500 – $150,750 to $106,00 – $147,750. Even administrator/office managers were affected dropping 0.7% – 3.1%.

In-house paralegals and attorneys were also hit with paralegals seeing a decline of 0.6% to 1.7%.  Senior in-house paralegals dropped from $53,000 – $80,250 to $52,750 – $79,000. So if you thought you might be safer in-house, maybe not.

Trends cited in law firms include offering alternative fee arrangements, improving service levels and fortifying in-demand practice areas.  Corporate legal departments are remaining selective about the projects assigned to outside counsel and performing more work in-house.

Skills and expertise in demand include delivering client services in more cost-effective ways. Case management software most in demand appears to be case management, e-discovery and e-billing software such as Attenex, Concordance, iCONECT and CT Summation.

If you are seeking employment in 2010, be sure not to overshoot your mark but by all means, don't sell yourself too short.  Bear in mind, however, it's virtually impossible to take a huge drop in salary and then expect to move on after that at the salary you were making two jobs ago.  Be smart about taking a new position but don't be so smart that you go hungry!