Washington DC Paralegal Career Guide

Our career guide is designed to answer the most common questions about how to become a paralegal in Washington DC. On this page, you will find information on Washington DC paralegal salary, job outlook, and career resources to help you start your career in the legal field. Find the answers to your questions about how to become a paralegal in the District of Columbia using the directory below.

Table of Contents:
Paralegal Careers
Job Outlook in Washington DC
Salary Outlook
Paralegal Certification
Career Quick Start Tips – How to Become a Paralegal in Washington DC
Career Advice from Experienced Paralegals
Additional Paralegal Resources

Paralegal Careers

Though the paralegal profession has continued to expand across a wide range of industries, private law firms continue to be the primary employers of paralegals and legal assistants nationwide. The District of Columbia hosts the offices of many major national law firms with a strong contingent of international firms as well. Large firms tend to offer the most Washington DC paralegal jobs and typically offer more competitive compensation and benefits. These firms generally delegate labor based on subject area, giving paralegals the opportunity to specialize in a particular field of law.

Covington & Burling LLP is an established international firm founded in Washington DC that practices in virtually every legal specialty. With an attorney base of over 300 individuals in its DC office alone, Covington & Burling LLP may be a good source for paralegal jobs in Washington DC, particularly for paralegals with some legal experience and a desire to pursue further subject specialization. Williams & Connolly is another prestigious law firm in the Washington DC area. With special recognition for its pro bono work and a reputation for excellent client services and selective hiring, the firm boasts a competitive trial record and an ambitious mindset.

Government agencies, corporations, and insurance groups also produce numerous opportunities for recently graduated paralegals. The District of Columbia hosts several national corporations including Fannie Mae, Danaher Corporation, and Cogent Communications Holdings. Corporations such as these may be a good source for paralegal jobs in Washington DC, particularly for those interested in business law, corporate litigation, and intellectual property law. Additional paralegal jobs can be found in government agencies operating throughout the district.

Job Outlook in Washington DC

Projected Job Growth


Paralegals in Washington DC from 2016-20261

In May 2017, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 5,260 paralegals and legal assistants employed in the District of Columbia.2 As private law firms, corporations, and other paralegal employers seek to minimize the expense of providing legal services, paralegal employment is expected to increase as certain tasks previously allocated to attorneys shift to paralegal support staff. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has estimated a nationwide job growth rate of 15% for paralegals and legal assistants from 2016 to 2026.3 Positive growth for paralegal jobs in Washington DC is also projected, though at a more moderate rate of growth of 10.6% over the same period.1 This equates to 670 new paralegal jobs added to the local economy from 2016 to 2026, with an anticipated 730 average annual openings projected including replacement positions.1

Washington DC Paralegal Salary Outlook

The average paralegal salary in Washington DC was reported at $78,350 in 2017.3 Washington DC hosts both the densest concentration of paralegals and the highest average paralegal salary in the US.2 This high wage likely reflects the high cost of living in DC as well as the prominence of the paralegal field within the region. In addition, the already high wage can be expected to rise as paralegals adopt a more expansive role in the legal sphere. Overall, the national expansion of the paralegal field suggests very positive employment and compensation trends within Washington DC, particularly for well-qualified applicants.

Washington DC Paralegal Salary Info

An overview of paralegal salary in Washington DC:

Metro AreaNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
District of Columbia5,260$78,350
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria DC-VA-MD-WV Metropolitan Division9,050$72,010

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2017.4

Paralegal Certification in Washington

Paralegals and legal assistants in the District of Columbia are not required to obtain Washington DC paralegal certification. As state law does not mandate minimum educational requirements, law firms and other paralegal employers are free to offer on-site training programs. However, due to employer demand, many paralegals choose to seek formal paralegal training through one of the paralegal schools in Washington DC. The American Bar Association (ABA) has currently approved no Washington DC paralegal programs. However, other paralegal schools in Washington DC may also provide adequate preparation for an entry-level career.

Washington DC Certification

Though Washington DC paralegal certification is not required, paralegals who have completed one of the Washington DC paralegal programs are strongly advised to seek voluntary certification through a national organization such as the National Association for Legal Assistants (NALA) or the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA). Both of these associations offer paralegal certification programs designed to maintain a consistent professional standard for paralegals and legal assistants nationwide. Exam eligibility requirements and prerequisites can be found on each organization’s website. Though these programs are not mandated by state or federal law, they are highly respected within the legal field. Paralegals and legal assistants are also encouraged to seek guidance from the Washington DC paralegal associations listed below.

Career Quick Start Tips — How to Become a Paralegal in Washington DC

Professionals may take several routes to become a paralegal in Washington DC. The most competitive applicants for Washington DC paralegal jobs possess a combination of education and experience as well as national paralegal certification. Beginning a paralegal career by attending one of the paralegal schools in Washington DC is a smart move that can increase an applicant’s competitiveness. You can view typical requirements for paralegal jobs in Washington DC on our jobs board. You can also find out more about national certification on our guide Steps to Become a Paralegal.

Career Advice from Experienced Paralegals

Paralegal Resources

As a paralegal, you play a central role in the success of your firm. Having the right resources when they are needed is key to becoming successful as a paralegal. These resources for paralegals in Washington DC can help you start your career on the right track.

Washington DC Paralegal Career Books

  • Legal Research in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia – This guide to legal research in Washington DC and surrounding states provides a solid foundation in the finer points of this skill. The text takes a process-based approach to finding legal sources, and though it focuses on print sources it is still a relevant addition to the paralegal’s bookshelf.
  • The Law of Evidence in the District of Columbia – Paralegals whose work involves trial courts will find this text on the DC laws of evidence indispensable. The book covers evidence preparation from pre-trial through the entire court process, including quick reference sections for finding answers to evidentiary questions during trial. The laws of evidence in the municipality of DC and at the federal level are both thoroughly discussed.

Paralegal Job Search Websites for Washington DC

Law Libraries in Washington DC

  • The Law Library of Congress – The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world, with physical materials counted in the millions of volumes. It is also home to the largest law library in the world, with nearly three million law-related volumes. Its print and online collections in government, politics, and law are comprehensive at the federal and state levels and are also deep for international materials.
  • George Mason University School of Law Library – The George Mason University School of Law Library is open to the general public. Its holdings encompass over 250,000 print volumes and a nearly equal number of microform volumes, in addition to electronic and digital collections. Most materials do not circulate but may be used for on-site legal research.

Paralegal Associations in Washington DC

  • National Capital Area Paralegal Association – Founded in 1974, the National Capital Area Paralegal Association serves legal support professionals across the Washington DC metropolitan corridor. This large association is able to offer many benefits to its membership, including continuing education, networking, and pro bono service opportunities. Annual dues are $90 for voting members, $95 for associate members, and $60 for student members.

1. Projections Central: https://www.projectionscentral.org/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, Washington DC: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_dc.htm
5. American Bar Association: https://www.americanbar.org/groups/paralegals/paralegal-resource-directory/