By Amanda Hamilton, Chief Executive of the National Association of Licensed Paralegals (NALP)
The first point to make when it comes to paralegal salaries is that they vary dramatically depending on where your employer is located, who your employer is and the kind of work they do!
For example, working in a local general practice law firm outside of the major cities starting salaries could be as low as £14 k per annum, rising to around £22-£25k. This may be slightly higher for graduates.
Paralegal in major cities
However, in major cities, such as London or Manchester, paralegal salaries in law firms may start at £24k and rise up to around £40k for a senior paralegal with a number of years’ experience. Some of the larger law firms, may even pay up to around £40k+ for their most senior paralegals. Private client and commercial law firms could offer even more incentives salary-wise.*
Employed paralegals outside of the legal sector
Salaries also may vary if you are employed as a paralegal outside of the legal sector. For example, large organisations with an in-house legal department may offer around £30k or more, depending on the nature of the work and how specialised it is. A Charity may offer less.
The point is that there are a variety of different potential employers depending on which sector you choose to offer your paralegal skills. So the advice would be to choose a sector that most appeals to you and see if you can find a paralegal role in the area of law that also appeals to you. Assess what kind of salary you would require as a minimum and seek out the best options.
Working as a freelance paralegal may be a viable option. You can offer your services on a self-employed basis to solicitors and get paid by the hour, day, week or otherwise. The benefit works well for both parties as there’s no PAYE/National Insurance payable by the solicitor which is a bonus, and you are free to negotiate the fee for the particular job that is required.
Hourly rates that you can charge may vary dependent on the work required, but if it’s general outdoor work (filing documents at court, taking notes in court etc) then maybe £20-£25 per hour.
Starting your own paralegal business
There is, in addition, the possibility of applying for a NALP Licence to Practise allowing you to have your own paralegal business offering legal services to clients directly. However, this is subject to fulfilling the eligibility criteria such as the requirement you to produce evidence of a number of years’ relevant legal experience in the areas of law in which you wish to practise and have professional indemnity insurance.
The beauty of your own practice is that you can charge your clients reasonable fees for the work knowing that it will be less costly for the clients to employ you than to pay for a solicitor. Most practitioners will charge anywhere between £30 – £80 per hour or a fixed fee for certain types of work such as drafting a Will.
*Average salary figures extracted from a variety of different sources.
Author Amanda Hamilton is Chief Executive of the National Association of Licenced Paralegals (NALP), a non-profit membership body and the only paralegal body that is recognised as an awarding organisation by Ofqual (the regulator of qualifications in England). Through its Centres around the country, accredited and recognised professional paralegal qualifications are offered for those looking for a career as a paralegal professional.