Pennsylvania Paralegal Career Guide
This guide is your starting point for beginning a career in the legal field as a paralegal or legal assistant in Pennsylvania. On this page, you will find the most recent information available on paralegal career outlooks, salary, and career resources in Pennsylvania as well as answers to the most common questions about Pennsylvania paralegal certification. Start learning how to become a paralegal in Pennsylvania with the easy-to-navigate directory below.
Table of Contents:
- Paralegal Careers
- Job Outlook in Pennsylvania
- Salary Outlook
- Paralegal Certification
- Career Quick Start Tips – How to Become a Paralegal in Pennsylvania
- Career Advice from Experienced Legal Professionals
- Additional Paralegal Resources
Most entry-level paralegals in Pennsylvania have an associate degree in paralegal studies or have completed a paralegal or legal assistant certificate program. Pennsylvania paralegals and legal assistants find work at corporations, banks, government agencies, and private law firms throughout the state. Regional or national law firms generally support the largest number of paralegal support staff and may have good opportunities for recently certified paralegals and legal assistants. These firms generally practice in multiple legal areas and may subdivide paralegal support, allowing individuals to specialize in a particular legal subject.
K & L Gates, based in Pittsburgh, is one of the largest law offices in Pennsylvania. This full-service law firm operates internationally and has offices in many US cities. This network of offices gives paralegals a degree of geographic flexibility as well as the opportunity to get an in-depth view of several legal departments. Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP is another international law firm with a large contingent of attorneys based in Philadelphia. This firm offers continuing education and training programs for newly hired paralegals with mentoring programs based upon the legal subject area. Both of these firms may have good opportunities for paralegals seeking a large, international firm environment. Other large corporations that consistently list Pennsylvania legal jobs include Comcast, Sunoco, Rite Aid, United States Steel, Aramark, and Erie Insurance Group. Additionally, various government agencies and financial organizations may offer positions for recently certified paralegals looking to build experience and engage with a variety of legal areas.
Job Outlook in Pennsylvania
Projected Job Growth
Paralegals in Pennsylvania from 2016-20261
As of May 2017, Pennsylvania firms and government agencies employed 11,590 paralegals and legal assistants across the state.2 As law firms seek to minimize the cost of providing legal services, paralegals and legal assistants are expected to adopt a more substantial role within the legal community. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts 15% job growth rate for paralegals and legal assistants in the US from 2016 to 2026, which is close to the projection of 14.6% growth for these professionals in Pennsylvania over the same time period.1,3 The national projected growth significantly exceeds the average employment growth projection for all US occupations as well as the average employment growth projection for all law-related professions.2 Overall, the fast and considerable expansion of the paralegal and legal assistants profession should create a favorable hiring environment for formally educated and nationally certified paralegals and legal assistants in Pennsylvania. As in most other states, paralegal jobs in Pennsylvania are highly concentrated around urban areas, particularly Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia.2
Pennsylvania Paralegal Salary Outlook
The average annual wage for paralegals and legal assistants in Pennsylvania is reported at $54,080 by the BLS.3 This average annual wage is quite close to the national median wage for paralegals and legal assistants at $53,910.2 The high number of existing paralegal positions, particularly in urban areas of the state, shows the strong presence of paralegal employers. These employers are likely to experience the national trend of paralegal expansion, creating new jobs across the state. Overall, the outlook for paralegal salary in Pennsylvania is positive for the coming years. Formal education and certification will continue to benefit paralegal candidates as the profession expands.
Prospective professionals should note that those who make a higher-than-average paralegal salary in Pennsylvania frequently specialize in high-demand areas of the law. Specialization paired with education and experience can also help paralegals become more competitive in the job market. Work environments also have an impact on salary; for example, private law firms may offer higher paralegal salaries than government agencies. Ultimately, building your skills in an area of law that interests you is the best way to stay invested in your work and advance your paralegal career.
Pennsylvania Paralegal Salary Info By Metro Area
A quick look at paralegal salary in Pennsylvania by metro area:
|Metro Area||Number Employed||Average Annual Salary|
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2017.4
Paralegal Certification in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania state law does not currently regulate the education, training, or employment of paralegals and legal assistants. Within Pennsylvania, paralegals and legal assistants are classified as legal paraprofessionals and are permitted to perform certain legal tasks under the direct supervision of a qualified attorney. Paralegals and legal assistants are not permitted to practice law in any capacity. Though there are no mandated minimum educational requirements for paralegals in Pennsylvania, prospective paralegals and legal assistants are strongly encouraged to seek formal training or education in the field prior to seeking employment. Currently, the American Bar Association has approved 14 paralegal programs in Pennsylvania. These programs include bachelor’s, associate’s, and certificate degree options and generally include a background to substantive legal areas as well as practical training in professional skills.
Once paralegals have completed a degree program, optional Pennsylvania paralegal certification through the Keystone Alliance of Paralegal Associations (KAPA) is recommended. KAPA’s Pennsylvania Certified Paralegal Credential Program (PaCP) is a voluntary certification program designed to ensure a continuing standard of excellence for paralegals and legal assistants in Pennsylvania. National organizations also offer certification programs to maintain a consistent level of competency within the paralegal profession nationwide. Both the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) and the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) offer optional certification examinations that are highly recommended and well-respected by paralegal employers. For more information regarding paralegal employment and education in Pennsylvania, please refer to the state paralegal associations listed below.
Career Quick Start Tips — How to Become a Paralegal in Pennsylvania
As there are no statewide standards or regulations for becoming a paralegal in Pennsylvania, prospective paralegals and legal assistants may take many paths to become a paralegal professional. Most paralegals start their careers with a combination of education and experience in legal assisting. Some Pennsylvania employers may also offer on-the-job training. To become more competitive as candidates for paralegal positions, many professionals start by completing one of the many paralegal programs in Pennsylvania.
Although Pennsylvania paralegal certification is not required to become a paralegal, pursuing certification is a great way to stand out from the crowd. You can also see typical paralegal requirements from employers by looking at current paralegal jobs in Pennsylvania on our jobs board. Browsing current job listings is an excellent way to gain a better understanding of the education and skills that Pennsylvania law firms hiring paralegals are looking for. For even more detailed information on becoming a paralegal, including further detail on voluntary certification programs, check out the Paralegal411 guide Steps to Become a Paralegal.
Career Advice from Experienced Paralegals
- Pennsylvania Attorney and Co-Author, The Law of Superheroes, Ryan M. Davidson
- Pennsylvania Employment Lawyer Phillip Miles
The role of the paralegal is central to the operation of law firms, allowing paralegals to make a difference for their employers and for their employers’ clients. One key step to success as a paralegal is having the most current information available when questions or concerns arise. The following resources for Pennsylvania paralegals can help you become more competitive in your career.
Pennsylvania Paralegal Career Books
- The Pennsylvania Paralegal – Written by William P. Statsky, John D. DeLeo, and John F. Geis, this resource guide provides students and practicing paralegals with easy-to-use references specific to Pennsylvania law and practice. Also included in the book are suggested internet resources and a legal dictionary.
- The Bluebook – Compiled by faculty and staff at some of the leading law schools in the US, the Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation is an irreplaceable guide to legal writing with proper citations. The newer editions of the Bluebook include easy-to-use citation examples as well as a reference for common legal abbreviations.
- Alternative Dispute Resolution: Law, Procedure, and Commentary for the Pennsylvania Practitioner – Written by Robert A. Creo, this guide to alternative dispute resolution and mediation is helpful to paralegals in all fields who may encounter cases that enter into mediation or negotiation. This book includes an overview of the theory and models of mediation, tips for negotiating before, during, and after mediation sessions, and advice on maintaining professional neutrality.
- Pennsylvania Employment Laws – Particularly useful for paralegals working in labor and employment law or in human resources departments, this guide to Pennsylvania’s employment law statutes is a useful reference. Included in its pages are current references to online statutes and additional internet resources, providing comprehensive and always up-to-date information. Purchasers also receive a one-year membership to the online Employment Law Handbook.
- Residential Mortgage Foreclosure: Pennsylvania Law and Practice – Like most other states, Pennsylvania has seen an increase in foreclosure rates. This reference guide to foreclosure law in Pennsylvania is a helpful resource for paralegals working in real estate law.
- Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Law: The Basics – As a primer for those new to the field of workers’ compensation, this desk reference deliberately avoids unnecessary legal jargon in order to clarify issues in Pennsylvania law. For personal injury paralegals and those in related fields, this guide will provide fast answers to questions about workers’ compensation in Pennsylvania.
- The Complete Guide to Planning Your Estate in Pennsylvania – Though written for individuals outside of the legal profession, this book by experienced attorney Linda Ashar is helpful for paralegals working in estate, probate, and family law. With references to current statutes and their applications, cost strategies, and legal elements of valid estate planning, paralegals will find this an easy primer as well as a continuing resource.
Paralegal Job Search Websites for Pennsylvania
- Pennsylvania Bar Association – The Pennsylvania Bar Association provides a regularly updated jobs board that includes positions for paralegals and legal assistants.
- Pennsylvania Bureau of State Employment Jobs Board – Those interested in Pennsylvania government paralegal positions can check the PBSE jobs board, which also includes links to registering for Civil Service positions in the state.
- Paralegal411 jobs board – For even more paralegal jobs in Pennsylvania, be sure to visit our jobs board.
Pennsylvania Court Info
- PACourts.gov – The Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania website provides portals to all courts operating within the state, from the state Supreme Court to the minor courts. From this site you can access court statistics, case filings, rules of order and required court forms, and much more.
- Courts.Phila.gov – As one of the busiest court systems in Pennsylvania, the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania comprises two courts. On the district website visitors can access court forms, process electronic filings, and view fee schedules. The site also includes an easy to use case search function.
Law Libraries in Pennsylvania
- Pennsylvania State Law Library – Under the jurisdiction of the Pennsylvania Department of Education, the Pennsylvania State Law Library in Harrisburg houses a comprehensive collection of documents in multiple formats relating to state and federal law. This library is also the official state depository for Commonwealth of Pennsylvania printed publications as well as a regional depository for federal publications.
- University of Pennsylvania Law School Biddle Law Library – Comprising over one million volumes, the law collections at the Biddle Law Library in Philadelphia are comprehensive for all types of legal research. The library’s holdings are open to students as well as legal professionals, though access may be restricted during reading and examination periods for current students.
- Jenkins Law Library – Serving the Philadelphia area since 1802, the Jenkins Law Library is a subscription-based law library that offers substantially reduced membership fees for students enrolled in paralegal programs in Pennsylvania and nearby states. Daily access for non-attorneys is also available.
Paralegal Associations in Pennsylvania
- Central Pennsylvania Paralegal Association – The Central Pennsylvania Paralegal Association serves paralegals throughout the central Pennsylvania counties. With the mission of advancing the paralegal profession and encouraging continuing education, this association averages between 75 and 85 active members. Annual dues are $60 for voting members, $30 for student members, and $45 for associate members.
- Chester County Paralegal Association – Serving Chester County in eastern Pennsylvania, this paralegal association was founded in 1992 to promote high standards, ethics, and networking within the paralegal community. The Chester County Paralegal Association is a member of both the Keystone Alliance of Paralegal Associations (KAPA) and the National Federation of Paralegal Associations, Inc. (NFPA). Membership fees are on an annual basis and are $65 for full membership, $50 for associate membership, and $45 for student membership.
- Delaware County Paralegal Association – The Delaware County Paralegal Association hosts multiple professional events throughout the year for its membership, including general meetings and speakers panels. Categories for membership include full, associate, student, and affiliate.
- Lancaster Area Paralegal Association – Since 1984, the Lancaster Area Paralegal Association has served as a networking and communication forum for area paralegals as well as an advocate for the paralegal profession. The association hosts regular events of general and special interest to paralegals. Annual membership fees are $50 for voting paralegal members, $50 for sustaining non-voting members, and $25 for paralegal student members.
- Lycoming County Paralegal Association – The Lycoming County Paralegal Association was established in 1995 to help paralegals and legal professionals network and enhance their professional knowledge and opportunities. The association offers legal seminars, lunch and learn meetings, and other networking opportunities. Membership categories include Voting, Affiliate, and Associate.
- Montgomery County Paralegal Association – Founded in 1999, the Montgomery County Paralegal Association now has a roster of over 130 members. Member benefits include access to an exclusive job bank and listserv, monthly meetings and seminars on current paralegal topics of interest, and co-membership in the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) and the Keystone Alliance of Paralegal Associations (KAPA). Annual dues are $80 for voting members, $65 for associate members, and $35 for student members.
- The Philadelphia Association of Paralegals – The Philadelphia Association of Paralegals was founded to promote the paralegal profession and encourage individual members’ professional growth through skills development, education, and networking. This association offers continuing education, scholarships for current students, and a private jobs board for members. Members also receive membership in the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) and the Keystone Alliance of Paralegal Associations (KAPA).
- Pittsburgh Paralegal Association – Since 1977, the Pittsburgh Paralegal Association has been assisting its members in finding opportunities for professional growth while advocating for the paralegal profession. The association membership is also active in promoting pro bono service. Annual dues are $80 for voting members, $80 for associate members, and $30 for student members.
- York County Paralegal Association – Founded in 1992, the York County Paralegal Association seeks to assist its members with professional advancement and to promote the awareness and utilization of paralegal work. The York County Paralegal Association is active in pro bono work and also offers an annual scholarship for paralegal students. Membership categories include voting, affiliate non-voting, and student non-voting.
1. Projections Central: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2017 Occupational Employment and Wages, Paralegals and Legal Assistants: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes232011.htm
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Paralegals and Legal Assistants: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/Legal/Paralegals-and-legal-assistants.htm#tab-5
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2017 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Pennsylvania: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_pa.htm
5. American Bar Association: https://www.americanbar.org/groups/paralegals/paralegal-resource-directory/