Virginia Paralegal Career Guide
Our guide is your starting point for launching your career as a paralegal. Here you will find information on Virginia paralegal salary, career outlook, and professional resources. Use the easy-to-navigate directory below to find the section most relevant to your questions about how to become a paralegal in Virginia.
Table of Contents:
- Paralegal Careers
- Job Outlook in Virginia
- Salary Outlook
- Paralegal Certification
- Career Quick Start Tips – How to Become a Paralegal in Virginia
- Additional Paralegal Resources
Though paralegals and legal assistants are required in all types of organizations, law firms, corporate legal departments, and government agencies continue to be the leaders in paralegal employment. Most entry-level Virginia paralegals have completed an associate’s degree or certificate in paralegal studies. Recently graduated paralegals and legal assistants may find job opportunities through contacts made during internship programs and career services offerings associated with their degree programs. Generally, large, urban law offices require the greatest degree of paralegal support and offer the highest paralegal compensation. These firms may be more likely to assign work based on legal subject area, giving paralegals an opportunity to specialize in a particular legal field.
Spilman, Thomas, and Battle, PLLC is a full-service law firm with offices across West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. As one of the region’s largest firms, Spilman serves clients ranging from local startups to Fortune 500 companies and practices in a wide range of legal specialties. In an effort to deliver the most cost-effective service to clients, Spilman, Thomas & Battle often delegates high-level tasks to paralegals, allowing a large degree of responsibility and career mobility. Founded and based in Richmond, Vandeventer Black LLP is a national firm with additional offices in North Carolina, California, and Germany. Vandeventer Black offers services in a wide range of legal disciplines and places emphasis on the importance of paralegals within the legal team. Both of these firms may be good starting places for prospective paralegals seeking a large, multi-practice area work environment. Corporations offer slightly different career opportunities and may be well-suited for paralegals interested in such specialty areas as finance law, product liability, or advertising. Virginia hosts many Fortune 500 companies including Freddie Mac, General Dynamics, Capital One Financial, and the Altria Group. Government agencies and local insurance group branches may also offer promising positions for paralegals looking to gain valuable work experience.
Job Outlook in Virginia
Projected Job Growth
Paralegals in Virginia from 2012-2022*1
There are an estimated 8,790 paralegals and legal assistants employed in Virginia.2 Paralegal and legal assistant employment is expected to increase 15% nationwide from 2016 to 2026, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.3 This projected growth is slightly higher than the average projected growth across all US occupations of 11%.3 These projections coincide with observable trends in paralegal and legal assistant employment in both law firms and in internal legal departments at corporations nationwide. The combination of these new positions and the increased importance of paralegals in the larger legal sphere should result in a very positive employment environment for paralegals throughout the next several years.
*The Virginia Workforce Connection has kept projections for the 2016-2026 period confidential.
Virginia Paralegal Salary Outlook
The average annual salary for Virginia paralegals and legal assistants is $53,030.4 This wage compares favorably with the national median paralegal wage of $53,910.4 Large law offices based in urban centers generally have the highest demand for paralegals and offer the highest paralegal compensation. For example, the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria metropolitan corridor has one of the highest concentrations of employed paralegals in the nation, with an annual average wage of $69,110 – which also makes it one of the top-paying metropolitan areas in the US for paralegals and legal assistants.4 Smaller offices may offer slightly lower compensation but can sometimes offer a greater degree of scheduling flexibility. Formal education and national certification will continue to be the best way to enter the field and compete for a higher paralegal salary in Virginia.
Virginia Paralegal Salary Info By Metro Area
A glance at paralegal salary in Virginia by metro area:
|Metro Area||Number Employed||Average Annual Salary|
|Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News VA-NC||1,690||$44,740|
|Washington-Arlington-Alexandria DC-VA-MD-WV Metro||10,700||$69,110|
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2017.4
Paralegal Certification in Virginia
Virginia state law does not currently regulate the education and employment of paralegals, and there is no statewide standard for Virginia paralegal certification. Paralegals may, therefore, enter the profession with no previous experience and undergo on-the-job training. However, paralegal employers in Virginia tend to favor candidates with some formal paralegal education. The American Bar Association (ABA) has approved five Virginia paralegal programs.5 These programs are designed to impart professional skills and substantive legal knowledge to students interested in entry-level legal positions. There are also numerous paralegal programs in Virginia that do not have ABA approval that may satisfy employers’ requirements for entry-level paralegals. To become a certified paralegal, individuals must complete a voluntary certification program offered through a recognized paralegal organization. The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA), and the National Association for Legal Professionals (NALS) all offer comparable certification examinations designed to establish a high standard of excellence for paralegals and legal assistants nationwide.
Although there is no formal Virginia paralegal certification, the Virginia Alliance of Paralegal Associations has issued informal guidelines for paralegal education meant to ensure a consistent level of professional competency. These guidelines support the employment of paralegals and legal assistants who have completed an ABA-approved program; have earned national certification; have graduated from a bachelor’s degree program with 24 semester hours of paralegal-specific coursework; have completed an associate degree with 24 semester hours of paralegal specific coursework; or have earned five years of work experience as a paralegal. However, these are voluntary standards and are not requirements for employment as a paralegal in Virginia. You can see what current employers are looking for in candidates by visiting the Paralegal411 jobs board. After attending one of the paralegal schools in Virginia, prospective paralegals are encouraged to seek membership in one of the state paralegal associations listed below.
Career Quick Start Tips — How to Become a Paralegal in Virginia
Due to the lack of statewide standards for paralegals, there are a number of ways to become a paralegal in Virginia. A two- or four-year degree is the most common route to a paralegal career, although certification or other combinations of education and experience may also satisfy entry-level job requirements. On-the-job training for qualified applicants is also common. You can learn more about paralegal schools in Virginia on our Virginia paralegal programs page.
Voluntary paralegal certification through a national organization can help aspiring paralegals and legal assistants build their credentials and become competitive in the eyes of employers. Typical education and experience requirements posted by employers can be viewed on our jobs board, which includes many Virginia paralegal jobs. To find out even more about how to become a paralegal, including further information on national certification, read our guide Steps to Become a Paralegal.
As a paralegal, you can help drive the success of your firm and make a difference in clients’ lives. Success in the paralegal field is based in large part on having the right information at the right time. These resources for Virginia paralegals can help you develop your career.
Virginia Paralegal Career Books
- The Virginia Notary Law Primer – As law firms place a greater emphasis on efficient practice, Virginia paralegals are frequently asked to perform notary duties in the office. This overview of Virginia notary law helps paralegals understand rules and guidelines for notaries and also serves as a refresher on common questions for even experienced professionals. Included are full requirements for notaries and different notarial acts, guidelines for proper identification of signers, and much more.
- Virginia Law of Evidence – This book leads professionals step-by-step through the process of gathering and presenting evidence for the courts. Issues and guidelines for expert witnesses, hearsay and opinion, and other common courtroom processes in the context of evidence collection are included. The book also includes an overview of the Federal Rules of Evidence.
- Legal Research in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia – Written by Leah F. Chanin and Sarah K. Wiant, this handbook to effective legal research in the greater DC metropolitan area has been recommended reading for area paralegals since its first publication. This book includes tips and tricks developed to aid paralegals and legal professionals throughout the legal research process.
- Certified Paralegal Review Manual: A Practical Guide to CP Exam Preparation – Written for paralegals preparing for the Certified Legal Assistant and Certified Paralegal exams by the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), this study guide includes descriptions of the testing process and test elements as well as in-depth review of the essential testing areas. This book also includes sample tests and exam tips to help you become thoroughly prepared to earn the voluntary Certified Paralegal credential.
- Virginia Family Law, Theory and Practice, with Forms – Now in its 9th edition, this in-depth look at Virginia blackletter law examines the content of state family law as well as its rationale and practical applications. Chapters are organized around areas such as marriage, divorce, and child custody issues. Included in the book are overviews of legal strategy as well as case precedents helpful to understanding family law in Virginia.
- Virginia Real Estate: Practice and Law – This guide to real estate law in Virginia is practical and helpful for paralegals specializing in real estate and related practice areas. Included are laws specific to Virginia as well as overviews of national common law for real estate. Available in textbook or e-book format, this book is now in its 10th edition.
- Virginia Employment Law: Forms and Practice Manual – Updated annually, this book covers Virginia employment law from the hiring process through the termination of employment relationships. The CD-Rom included with the guide holds over 250 electronic forms for use in common as well as uncommon communications and employment-related court filings. The most recent updates include developments from the Affordable Care Act, social media policies, and other current issues in employment law.
Paralegal Job Search Websites for Virginia
- Virginia Bar Association – The Virginia State Bar Association’s comprehensive employment board includes paralegal jobs in Virginia statewide.
- Virginia.gov jobs board – Those interested in government paralegal jobs in Virginia may wish to visit the Virginia.gov jobs board.
- Paralegal411 jobs board – You can also find Virginia paralegal jobs on our jobs board.
Virginia Court Info
- Courts.State.VA.us – The main portal for Virginia’s judicial system includes links to all state and local courts. This site also hosts online e-filing services, case status and information, and employment opportunities. Paralegals can also use this site as a starting point for legal research.
Law Libraries in Virginia
- Virginia State Law Library – The Virginia State Law Library is maintained by the staff of the Virginia Supreme Court and hosts a comprehensive reference collection that is open to paralegals working under the supervision of an attorney. Users should note that this library is not open to the general public.
- Arthur J. Morris Law Library at the University of Virginia – Housed within the University of Virginia School of Law in Charlottesville, the Arthur J. Morris Law Library is open to legal professionals and the general public during open access hours. This library has a wide-ranging collection of print and electronic volumes, though circulation to non-students is restricted. The library also houses about 5,000 rare books on subjects in Anglo-American legal history.
- Wahab Public Law Library – Located in Virginia Beach, this public law library houses over 12,500 print volumes and provides access to electronic legal databases and research software. Patrons can also request e-mail delivery of select documents from electronic legal resources free of charge.
Paralegal Associations in Virginia
- Fredericksburg Area Bar Association – Founded in 1996, the Fredericksburg Area Bar Association seeks to provide an open forum for area paralegals and legal assistants to discuss issues and pursue career development. The association works closely with area and national professional organizations to create opportunities for its members. Annual dues are $40 for active members, $30 for provisional members, and $15 for students.
- Local Government Paralegal Association of Virginia, Inc. – The Local Government Paralegal Association of Virginia (LGPA) focuses on the needs of paralegals working in government. The association hosts regular conferences and continuing education events. Membership is open to paralegals who are employed by government offices located within the Commonwealth of Virginia or who work for attorneys whose practice concerns municipal law.
- National Capital Area Paralegal Association – The National Capital Area Paralegal Association has been active in promoting the interests of paralegals and legal assistants in the greater DC area for over 40 years. Member benefits include a mentorship program, continuing legal education, and a jobs bank. This association also hosts other events throughout the year including socials, guest speakers, and pro bono service meetings.
- Paralegal Association of Northern Virginia – Based in Fairfax, the Paralegal Association of Northern Virginia sponsors guest speaking events, regular member meetings, and other professionally-oriented events. The association also encourages its members to participate in pro bono service. Annual dues are $75 for active members, $65 for associate members, and $40 for students.
- Richmond Paralegal Assocation – Established in 1982, the Richmond Paralegal Association seeks to promote professionalism, public service, and networking for Central Virginia paralegals. Regular meetings hosted by the association include dinner meetings and brown bag lunches as well as mini-seminars for continuing education credits. Membership categories include active, provisional, student, and associate.
- Roanoke Valley Paralegal Association – An affiliate of the Virginia Alliance of Paralegal Associations (VAPA) and the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), the Roanoke Valley Paralegal Association has been serving area paralegals for over 25 years. Members may attend monthly meetings with guest speakers, educational seminars, and community service events. Annual dues are $50 for general members and $20 for students.
- Tidewater Paralegal Association – The Tidewater Paralegal Association seeks to promote professional recognition of paralegals and continuing education for legal professionals. The association hosts monthly dinner meetings, study groups for professional certification, and annual seminars and receptions. Membership categories include active, associate, provisional, and student.
- Virginia Peninsula Paralegal Association – Since 1987 the Virginia Peninsula Paralegal Association has promoted the paralegal profession through education, certification, and a network of professional support. This association holds monthly meetings and other professional events in Newport News and surrounding areas. Annual dues are $35 for active members, $25 for associate members, and $25 for student members.
1. Virginia Workforce Connection: https://www.vawc.virginia.gov/vosnet/Default.aspx
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, Virginia: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_va.htm
5. American Bar Association: https://www.americanbar.org/groups/paralegals/paralegal-resource-directory/