Hike in demand fails to push up paralegal pay

Paralegal earnings have remained at the same levels since 2008, according to a new survey published by legal recruitment consultancy Chadwick Nott.

The National Paralegal Salary Survey 2011, compiled exclusively for Lawyer 2B, found that paralegals employed at US firms are the biggest earners followed closely by those working at magic circle firms.

A paralegal at a US firm with up to two years’ experience can expect to pocket between £25,000 and £35,000 per year, while those with more than two years’ experience can command annual salaries of between £27,000 and £40,000. Their magic circle counterparts earn between £22,000 and £27,000 and £23,000 and £35,000.

The survey found no real evidence of base salary increases so far this year for paralegals. Instead, a growing number of firms have begun to introduce performance-related salary structures that allow basic pay to be topped up where a paralegal or their team meets and exceeds specific performance targets, typically based on billable hours.

Chadwick Nott director Charles Elderton said he expected bonuses, which are generally around 10 per cent of basic pay, to become a permanent feature of ­paralegal salary structures. “Bonus payments, especially in volume personal injury firms, are often used to motivate and to top-up base salaries,” he added.

According to the survey, salaries in popular practice areas such as media, employment, family and personal injury remain marginally lower than other commercial areas.

Demand for paralegals in all the major practice areas – such as commercial litigation, commercial property, banking and finance and corporate – has increased, but it is still well below the level seen in 2007-08. However, the rise in demand for litigation paralegals has been met by temporary roles as opposed to permanent positions.

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