Illinois Paralegal Career and Salary Guide
Our Illinois paralegal career guide is designed to help you get a start in the legal field with up-to-date information on Illinois paralegal salary, job outlook, and career resources. Certification is not required to become a paralegal in Illinois, but earning a degree or certificate in paralegal studies can help you stand out from the competition. Learn more about how to become a paralegal in Illinois by starting with the easy-to-navigate directory below.
Table of Contents
- How to Become a Paralegal in Illinois
- Paralegal Certification
- Paralegal Career and Salary Outlook
- Paralegal Resources
How to Become a Paralegal in Illinois
As there are no formal requirements for paralegals in Illinois, there are various routes to becoming a paralegal in the state. There are many paralegal programs in Chicago and in greater Illinois that can prepare prospective professionals for this career. Many paralegals possess a combination of education, experience (which can include internships), and on-the-job training. Beginning as a document preparer or legal secretary in a law office and earning promotion to a paralegal position is another way to enter this career.
1. Earn a degree or certificate in paralegal studies.
Many individuals hoping to work as paralegals in Illinois complete an associate’s degree, certificate, or bachelor’s degree from one of the numerous paralegal schools in Illinois. Paralegal programs provide an introduction to the legal system and the typical tasks performed by paralegals in various legal settings. There are 15 paralegal schools in Illinois approved by the American Bar Association (ABA).1
2. Gain experience.
On-the-job training or internships are also important skill-building experiences to becoming a paralegal in Illinois. Many paralegal education programs offer hands-on experience as a part of the program. Real-world experience through a supervised program can help paralegal students or trainees gain confidence in a particular area of the law, such as litigation or probate, which may be attractive to potential employers.
3. Seek certification, if desired.
Voluntary certification is available, which can help demonstrate your competency and strengthen your job application. You can read more about certification below.
Paralegal Certification in Illinois
Like most other states, Illinois does not require paralegals to be certified in order to work in the profession. Paralegals, as defined under Illinois law, must have sufficient knowledge of legal concepts through education, training, or work experience, and must work under the direction of an attorney. Though some law firms, corporate legal departments, and government agencies provide on-site paralegal training, employers typically favor paralegal applicants with a certificate or associate degree in paralegal studies. A paralegal studies degree or certificate is also a requirement for voluntary certification through the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA, the Paralegal Association), the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA), or the American Alliance of Paralegals, Inc. (AAPI). For further information on voluntary certification opportunities, see our Steps to Become a Paralegal guide.
Illinois Paralegal Career and Salary Outlook
The majority of paralegals in Illinois are employed by law firms. Internships and networking through college and university career centers are effective methods of connecting with local law firms and can be especially useful for recent graduates. Large Illinois-based multinational law firms include Baker McKenzie; Sidley Austin; McDermott, Will & Emery; and Mayer Brown. Firms such as these employ numerous attorneys and often assemble large legal teams, sustaining substantial demand for qualified and professional paralegals. Additionally, many national law firms maintain offices in Chicago and are often in need of local paralegal assistance. Large enough to sustain a variety of legal subjects and maintain a demand for paralegal assistance, Jenner & Block LLP may be suited to career-oriented paralegal candidates seeking employment in a large law firm.
Due to the numerous government institutions and corporate headquarters located in the state, paralegals may also find work opportunities in government or in-house corporate legal departments. Kraft Heinz, Boeing, and Archer Daniels Midland all have head offices located in Illinois, along with many Fortune 500 companies. These environments offer unique opportunities to specialize and potentially different work environments than that of a global or national law firm. Paralegals interested in specialization in niche areas of the law or those seeking a more intimate work environment should inquire at small local firms. LinkedIn is a good research resource where you can search on geography (Illinois or city-level) for “paralegal” to find networking opportunities and also companies most associated with users identifying as paralegals; companies in Illinois with the most LinkedIn users as paralegals include:
- Jenner & Block
- Kirkland & Ellis
- Mayer Brown
- Robert Half
- Sidley Austin LLP
For more information about paralegal careers, take a look at our careers page.
Illinois Paralegal Salary Information
Projected Job Growth
Paralegals in Illinois from 2018-20282
In May 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimated 13,320 paralegals and legal assistants were employed in the state of Illinois, which was the fifth-highest employment level across all states.3 11,480 paralegals and legal assistants work in the Chicago-Naperville-Elgin metro area alone, which is also the fifth-highest employment level across all metro areas in the country.3 Projections Central estimates a 9.2% increase in paralegal and legal assistant jobs between 2018-2028, which is below the national projection of 12% during the same period, but still encouraging.2
Illinois paralegals and legal assistants averaged an annual wage of $60,390.3 The average paralegal compensation in Illinois compares favorably with the national average annual wage for paralegals of $56,610.3 The average annual salary of paralegals in Illinois and the projected increase in employment opportunities contribute to an optimistic hiring environment, especially for those who have received certification from professional associations. Candidates for paralegal jobs in Illinois should note that paralegal salary in Chicago tends to trend higher than in other areas of the state due to the higher cost of living and the higher demand for paralegal services. Other areas of dense business concentration where paralegals may find more competitive salaries include Naperville and Schaumburg. Estimates are based on national data, not school-specific information; data accessed in November 2021.
Illinois Paralegal Salary by Metro Area
|Metro Area||Number Employed4||Average Annual Salary4|
|St. Louis, MO-IL||3,400||$51,690|
Paralegal Associations in Illinois
These are volunteer organizations, typically with elected boards, that focus on professional development and networking for a specific geographical location and/or area of law.
- Chicago Bar Association (CBA):Offers paralegals access to an exclusive on-demand training video library, technology training programs, and networking outings, among other benefits.
- Illinois Paralegal Association (IPA): Provides paralegals and legal assistants across the state with access to career seminars, a jobs board, and professional mentoring.
- Cook County Law Library: Provides access to print collections across all areas of law as well as electronic database access for research across six branches in Cook County.
- Illinois Legal Aid Online (ILAO): Offers professional resources and a jobs board with opportunities for paralegals in nonprofit organizations.
- Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA): Provides a Career Resource Center listing paralegal and legal assistant jobs across the state, including paralegal jobs in Chicago.
- Illinois Supreme Court Library: Allows visitors access to a comprehensive collection of over 100,000 volumes on-site.
- Paralegal411 Jobs Board: For additional paralegal jobs in Illinois, visit our jobs board.
- State of Illinois Office of the Illinois Courts: Links to Circuit, Appellate, and the Supreme Courts as well as standardized forms and documents for court use and career opportunities for the judicial branches statewide.
- Style Manual for the Supreme and Appellate Courts of Illinois: Formatting assistance useful for paralegals working with cases in the Supreme or Appellate Courts of Illinois Supreme or Appellate Courts of Illinois or who find it necessary to format citations for these courts.
1. American Bar Association Directory of ABA Approved Paralegal Education Programs: https://www.americanbar.org/groups/paralegals/paralegal-resource-directory/
2. Projections Central Long Term Occupational Projections: https://projectionscentral.org/Projections/LongTerm
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2020 Occupational Employment and Wages, Paralegals and Legal Assistants: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes232011.htm
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2020 Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oessrcma.htm