How Much Does a Paralegal Make?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated October 9, 2022

Published June 21, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Paralegals take care of a variety of legal tasks for lawyers and other legal professionals. They may work in various legal sectors, and they often require extensive training and education. These professionals can earn a good salary depending on where they work, their training, and their experience level. In this article, we discuss what a paralegal does, their average salary, the qualifications needed for someone to become a paralegal, and the benefits of choosing this career path.

Related: How To Become a Paralegal (With Job Duties and Skills)

What is a paralegal?

A paralegal is an assistant who drafts and proofreads legal documents to support attorneys. Paralegals can work in the public sector, for private law firms, or for corporations. They help lawyers prepare for trials and meetings and communicate with clients, and they're also called law clerks, legal technicians, legal assistants, and technical clerks. Virtually every industry requires legal services, including health care, real estate, banking, business, and personal finance.

The duties and responsibilities of a paralegal may include:

  • Preparing and filing legal documents, including legal briefs, deposition notices, appeals, affidavits, contracts, and motions

  • Performing legal research such as information retrieval and fact gathering

  • Coordinating the different parts of various cases

  • Preparing for trial

  • Attending courtroom trials to assist lawyers

  • Interviewing clients and witnesses

  • Participating in legal proceedings such as legal depositions or real estate closings

  • Building and maintaining case files and documents related to cases

  • Doing administrative or clerical work

  • Invoicing clients

  • Answering phone calls and emails

  • Scheduling meetings and travel arrangements

The organization where a paralegal works determines the duties they perform every day. Many paralegals specialize in a particular area of law, such as:

  • Immigration law

  • Family law, including divorce, child custody, adoption agreements, and prenuptial agreements

  • Probate and estate planning

  • Real estate

  • Corporate law

  • Criminal defence

  • Criminal prosecution

  • Intellectual property

  • Civil litigation such as wrongful death or medical liability cases

  • Administrative law, government regulations and actions in a variety of fields

  • Disability, employee compensation, and workers' rights

  • Employment law

  • Personal injury

Most paralegals work for law firms, but some work for corporations or act as independent contractors for many clients. However, paralegals aren't qualified to give legal advice. In many jurisdictions, they also need to work under the liability insurance of an attorney.

Related: How to Become a Paralegal in Canada in 7 Steps (With Skills)

Key skills for paralegals

Becoming a paralegal can be a respected, rewarding career. You can improve your skills to prepare for the roles with a certified paralegal program and on-the-job experience. Here are some skills to develop or improve to be an excellent paralegal:

Organizational skills

Paralegals must be extremely organized and maintain a clear system of workplace processes and procedures. Attorneys rely on paralegals to keep track of information and documents related to cases. Paralegals also handle lots of paperwork every day, schedule meetings for attorneys, and make sure that they appear in court when needed. A calendar or scheduling app can help you improve your organization. You should also keep documents organized and shred any paperwork that's obsolete or no longer needed by clients. A good digital filing system is helpful as well.

Read More: Developing Proficient Organizational Skills

Communication skills

Paralegals often communicate with attorneys, other paralegals, clients, and other legal professionals. Understanding nonverbal cues such as facial expressions and body language is important. So is active listening, focusing on the speaker, making eye contact, avoiding distractions, and taking detailed noted when needed. You should make sure that your voice is clear and audible, and you should do your best to act confident, friendly, and empathetic.

When you explain legal concepts to clients, pause often and make sure that they understand. Also, remember not to give legal advice because you're not a lawyer. You can improve your communication skills by practising with a friend or taking a class or workshop.

Read More: Communication Skills: Definitions and Examples

Attention to detail

Most attorneys have to deal with enormous amounts of paperwork every day, and they don't have time to look over all of it by themselves. A paralegal can look through a client's documents and let a lawyer know about anything that a judge or jury would find important. That way, they won't have to spend hours looking at paperwork, but they won't miss anything important.

Paralegals should also know how to proofread their work carefully. They need to identify spelling, grammatical, and other errors, and make sure all paperwork is filled out and signed correctly. When proofreading, focus your full attention to minimize distractions, and make sure you remember vital details about the cases that you're working on.

Read More: How To Be More Detail-Oriented (With Definition and Resume Tips)

Research skills

Paralegals spend much of their time performing research, and they should be familiar with legal research databases such as Nexis/Lexis and Westlaw. They should also know how to find documents, evidence, witnesses, and other information related to a case. They often search for public records, statutes, and other information. Paralegals often look at current and past legal decisions to find precedents that could impact their cases.

When you start a research project, make an outline of the problem you need to solve and the questions you need to ask. Divide the project into manageable parts and create a deadline for when it should be completed. When possible, verify the information you find by finding several sources. Then, analyze the information you gather and prepare a report.

Read More: Research Skills: Definition and Examples

How much does a paralegal make?

According to Indeed Salaries, the average salary for a paralegal in Canada is $57,996 per year. Exactly how much a paralegal makes varies depending on your experience, geographic location, and place of employment. The starting salary for a paralegal is more than most other entry-level professions, and becoming one is a great way to learn more about the legal industry. Paralegals who work for law firms with several attorneys often earn more than those who work in firms with five or fewer lawyers.

Here are the average pay rates for paralegals in major Canadian cities:

  • Calgary, Alberta: $58,667 per year

  • Edmonton, Alberta: $65,325 per year

  • Vancouver, British Columbia: $67.647 per year

  • Winnipeg, Manitoba: $49,338 per year

  • Halifax, Nova Scotia: $45,434 per year

  • Toronto, Ontario: $49,307 per year

  • St. John's, Newfoundland: $50,678 per year

  • Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island: $48,519 per year

  • Montreal, Quebec: $60,212 per year

  • Saskatoon, Saskatchewan: $53,519 per year

  • Hamilton, Ontario: $51,296 per year

Paralegal education requirements

Most paralegals have a degree from a four-year university program. However, some attend community college and receive an associate's degree or an undergraduate paralegal certificate. These courses can take a few months, or up to a year. Common topics include tort law, civil law, wills and trusts, legal writing, criminal procedures, and legal research. Paralegals also receive on-the-job training from attorneys or through internship programs.

In Ontario, they must pass a licensing test but is not a standard requirement nationwide. For example, Alberta doesn't require paralegals to pass a test or join a licensing body. Most paralegals also work as notary publics who witness contract signings and other legal agreements. A separate license to act as a notary is required in all provinces.

Related: Legal Assistant vs. Paralegal (With Salaries and FAQ)

The benefits of becoming a paralegal

By becoming a paralegal, you can earn a high starting salary without a postgraduate degree. You can try out a career in law before you invest the time and effort needed to get a law degree, and you can take care of a variety of different tasks. You'll be able to help clients with complex cases and develop the skills you'll need to become a lawyer or a successful paralegal. You should be able to find a job easily. Paralegals are in high demand, and they can help law firms work more efficiently and minimize their costs. That means a good paralegal can find work easily in almost any city.

Gaining experience as a paralegal can also help you get into law school if you decide to become a lawyer in the future. While you work as a paralegal, you can build business relationships with lawyers and other professionals. One or more of these people may be willing to write you a recommendation letter for law school. Expanding your professional network will help you later in your career as well.

Working as a paralegal also lets you gain work experience and earn money while you decide whether you need more education. Some law firms even offer tuition reimbursement for paralegals who agree to continue working for the same company after getting a law degree. If you decide to go to law school, the courses you took to become a paralegal will help you, and you may be able to get credit for some of them.

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