Someone thinking about pursuing a career as a paralegal should understand how paralegals get paid. For the most part, they get paid similarly to other professionals who work in an office environment, but it can be more complicated than that. It is not uncommon for paralegals to get paid differently depending on the type of work they are doing, payment arrangements with a particular client or through a hybrid of different payment options.
By The Hour
Because many law firms bill clients for the amount of time worked, most paralegals are paid by the hour. This is part of the reason why the paralegal profession has seen a sharp increase in recent years and continues to keep growing. In an effort for law firms to cut costs, they are hiring more paralegals to handle the basic tasks attorneys used to do in order to keep rates lower for clients because hours worked by a paralegal are cheaper than hours worked by an attorney. This means many paralegals are entitled to overtime pay, as overtime hours are common in law firms when deadlines or major cases are coming up. Hourly pay is common for contract or temporary paralegal positions as well because it offers more flexibility for firms to change their hours based on need. Some paralegals may be paid performance bonuses if the work they turn in is exceptionally good.
Many paralegals are also salaried professionals and are paid a set amount regardless of how much time they spend working on cases over the course of a week. This is more common for seasoned paralegals who are full-time members at the law firms where they work. As with most professions, salaries will be based on experience, education level, and past salary history. Even in firms that charge and pay attorneys by the hour, support staff may still be paid a regular salary. Regular salaries are more common for paralegals who work outside of traditional law firms, as these professionals can also work for corporations or government agencies per the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
This payment arrangement for paralegals is becoming more common as law firms adopt it to give clients more transparency regarding final costs. Paralegals who provide services on a contract or freelance basis may also charge a flat fee for a project. Charging by the project is more common when paralegals are providing a basic document, such as a will or contract. Charging by the hour, in these cases, wouldn’t garner much income because experienced paralegals can do these tasks quickly, so it makes more sense to charge a flat rate for a standard service.
If A Client’s Case Is Won
This arrangement is not especially common, with the one area of law where it occurs being personal injury cases. Some of these firms guarantee that a client doesn’t pay if their case is lost. It is often called a contingent fee. Firms that offer this payment structure can be very selective of the clients they take on, only accepting clients who have a very solid case. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it has the added benefit of reducing frivolous lawsuits.
Some paralegals are paid in all of the above ways because they may have different payment arrangements for different services provided. How paralegals get paid can be convoluted but often it is a straightforward hourly wage.