Washington Paralegal Career and Salary Guide
Our Washington paralegal career guide is your starting point for becoming a paralegal or legal assistant in the state. Washington has no state-wide requirements for becoming a paralegal or a legal assistant. However, most entry-level paralegal jobs in the state do require the completion of an associate degree or certificate in paralegal studies. On this page, you will find information on how to become a paralegal in Washington, voluntary certification opportunities, paralegal career and salary outlook, and valuable career resources to help you become competitive in the job market. Start your journey to a paralegal career in Washington with the easy-to-navigate directory below.
Table of Contents
- How to Become a Paralegal in Washington
- Paralegal Certification
- Paralegal Career and Salary Outlook
- Paralegal Resources
How to Become a Paralegal in Washington
As there are currently no set Washington paralegal certification standards, paralegals in the state may begin their careers through a variety of means. Most commonly, paralegals in Washington possess a combination of education and experience, which may include a certificate, an associate’s degree, or a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies. Certification and experience, including internships, can also aid candidates seeking Washington paralegal jobs. Promising applicants may also be offered on-the-job training.
1. Earn a degree or certificate in paralegal studies.
Washington has several schools that offer paralegal certification programs leading to a certificate or associate’s degree. Currently, there are four Washington paralegal programs approved by the American Bar Association (ABA).1 Not every paralegal program in Washington is approved by the ABA, but gaining an education from one of these institutions is something many employers value can give paralegal candidates a competitive edge in the job search.
2. Gain experience.
Many certificate and degree programs will offer on-the-job training that can give paralegal candidates real-world experience and increase their hiring potential. Some entry-level paralegals work as document preparers or legal secretaries first and then pursue more specific paralegal training.
3. Seek certification, if desired.
Washington does not mandate any specific paralegal certification. However, future paralegals may wish to consider certification as a step towards a paralegal career. Voluntary certification through a recognized organization is desirable for many employers. You can read more about certification options below.
Paralegal Certification in Washington
Washington currently has no regulations governing the education, hiring, or registration of paralegals. In Washington, a paralegal is defined as a person who is qualified through education, work experience, or a combination of both, and serves under the direct supervision of a licensed Washington attorney. Paralegals and legal assistants in Washington are strongly encouraged to seek voluntary certification through a national paralegal or legal assistant association such as the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA, the Paralegal Association); the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA); and the American Alliance of Paralegals (AAPI). All of these organizations offer continuing education and certification programs for paralegals interested in boosting their credentials and maintaining a high degree of proficiency in the field.
The Washington Supreme Court’s Limited License Legal Technician (LLLT) Board offers the LLLT credential, which allows license holders to offer limited legal advice and services in family law matters without a Juris Doctor (JD). To qualify for the LLLT, candidates must hold an associate’s degree or higher in any subject and 45 credit hours of legal studies courses from an ABA- or LLLT Board-approved paralegal program and pass one of three approved examinations. Paralegals with at least 10 years of experience may qualify for an education waiver. Additionally, LLLT applicants need to have completed 1,500 hours of substantive legal experience in the three years prior to submitting an application. To learn more about the LLLT license, visit the Washington State Bar Association (WSBA) website.
Paralegals working in Spokane County may wish to register as a paralegal in the county through the Spokane Paralegal Registration Program maintained by the Spokane County Bar Association (SCBA). Registration does not confer membership in the Bar Association, but does include exclusive benefits, including continuing educational opportunities, a Spokane County courthouse badge, and members-only networking events. For more information on how to become a paralegal, see our Paralegal411 guide How to Become a Paralegal.
Washington Paralegal Career and Salary Outlook
Though law firms are the primary employers of paralegals, government agencies and other organizations also rely on paralegal and legal assistant support and may provide good opportunities for recent paralegal graduates. Headquartered in Seattle, Perkins Coie LLP is an international law firm known for quality client service and strong collaboration between attorneys and paralegal support staff. This firm assists new employees through orientation, training, and mentorship programs, and may provide good opportunities for motivated paralegals and legal assistants in the area. Another large Seattle-based law firm is Davis Wright Tremaine LLP. This firm specializes in business and litigation law and may serve as a good introduction for paralegals and legal assistants specifically interested in developing specialties in these areas of law.
For prospective paralegals and legal assistants seeking a corporate environment, many national and international corporations have headquarters in Washington state, including Costco, Microsoft, Amazon, Starbucks, and Nordstrom. Local and state government positions may also be available for paralegals and legal assistants and are a good way for inexperienced paralegals to gain insight into the profession and earn experience. LinkedIn is a good research resource where you can search on geography (Washington or city-level) for “paralegal” to find networking opportunities and also companies most associated with users identifying as paralegals; companies in Washington with the most LinkedIn users as paralegals include:
- Davis Wright Tremaine LLP
- Perkins Coie LLP
- University of Washington
For more information about paralegal careers, take a look at our careers page.
Washington Paralegal Salary Information
Projected Job Growth
Paralegals in Washington from 2018-20282
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported 8,100 paralegals and legal assistants employed throughout Washington in May 2020.3 Legal hiring is expected to undergo a shift from attorney hiring to paralegal and legal assistant hiring, resulting in increased opportunities for new paralegals. The estimated employment growth for paralegals in Washington is projected to be 15.3% from 2018 to 2028, a figure that outpaces national projections for this occupation at 12%.2 These trends should result in the creation of positions in a variety of legal environments and promote a positive hiring environment for paralegals and legal assistants within the state.
The average Washington paralegal salary was reported at $63,050 in May 2020. This makes Washington the third top paying state for paralegals and legal assistants in the United States, following Washington DC and California.3 Those seeking the highest salary potential may wish to look in urban areas, where wages tend to be higher than the average paralegal salary in Washington. Paralegals in the Seattle metropolitan area earn among the highest paralegal salaries in the nation, at an average of $68,160.3
The already strong paralegal and legal assistant wages combined with the presence of well-established law firms and corporations throughout the state indicate that the trend of paralegal and legal assistant expansion should be particularly strong in the state. These factors contribute to the positive salary outlook for paralegals and legal assistants in Washington. Formal paralegal education, national certification, and work experience can also contribute to a higher paralegal salary in Washington. Estimates are based on national data, not school-specific information; data accessed in November 2021.
Washington Paralegal Salary by Metro Area
|Metro Area||Number Employed4||Average Annual Salary4|
|Western Washington (nonmetropolitan area)||190||$51,740|
Paralegal Associations in Washington
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.
- King County Bar Association (KCBA): Seeks to promote legal professionals in King County through encouraging pro bono work, offering networking opportunities, and a members-only job board.
- NALS of Greater Seattle: Promotes the paralegal profession in the greater Seattle area through regular meetings, educational events, exclusive member discounts, and frequent member meetings.
- NALS of Washington: Strives to help paralegals across the state uphold high standards of the legal profession, hosts three conferences annually, and provides a strong community for networking opportunities.
- Washington State Bar Association: The Washington State Bar Association hosts a public employment board that includes many Washington paralegal jobs.
- Washington State Paralegal Association (WSPA): Serves paralegals across Washington, working to promote the paralegal profession and the professional development of members through frequent seminars, conferences, and regular meetings.
- University of Washington School of Law: Gallagher Law Library: Hosting a world-class collection of legal materials and an electronic database for legal research, the library is open to the public and legal professionals who are not affiliated with the university during regular hours.
- Paralegal411 Jobs Board: Search for paralegal career opportunities in Washington on our jobs board.
- Washington Courts: Serves as a portal to all major courts in the state’s jurisdiction, allowing visitors to access court and case search functions, view the rules of the courts, access court forms, and provide access to individual county law libraries.
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