Washington Paralegal Career Guide
Our guide is designed to answer your questions about how to become a paralegal in Washington and begin your career in the paralegal field. Here you will find information on Washington paralegal salary, job outlook, and career resources to help you become competitive in the paralegal job market. Start your journey to a paralegal career in Washington with the directory below.
Table of Contents:
- Paralegal Careers
- Job Outlook in Washington
- Salary Outlook
- Paralegal Certification
- Career Quick Start Tips – How to Become a Paralegal in Washington
- Additional Paralegal Resources
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 a large, well-respected 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 more corporate environment, many national and international corporations have headquarters in Washington state including Costco Wholesale, Microsoft, Amazon, Starbucks, and Nordstrom. Paralegal positions in legal departments of major businesses can be good matches for individuals wishing to enter the corporate legal field. 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.
Job Outlook in Washington
Projected Job Growth
Paralegals in Washington from 2016-20261
In May 2017, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 5,490 paralegals and legal assistants employed throughout Washington.2 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 Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 15% employment growth for paralegals and legal assistants nationwide from 2016 to 2026.3 This projection outstrips the projected average employment growth across all US occupations of 7% over the same time period.3 The growth rate for Washington paralegal jobs should be similar, with an estimated 16.2% growth rate during the same timeframe.1 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.
Washington Paralegal Salary Outlook
The average Washington paralegal salary was reported at $60,280 in May 2017.2 This represents a significant average salary increase in the last few years, as in May 2011 Washington paralegals earned an average annual wage of $46,680.3 Those seeking the highest salary potential may wish to look towards urban areas, where wages tend to be higher than the average paralegal salary in Washington. Paralegals in the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett metropolitan area earn among the highest paralegal salaries in the nation, with an average of $64,250.2
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 higher paralegal salary in Washington.
Washington Paralegal Salary Info By Metro Area
An overview of Washington paralegal salary 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 Washington
Washington currently has no regulations governing the education, hiring, or registration of paralegals. However, most employers prefer candidates with some formal paralegal training or education. The American Bar Association (ABA) has approved four paralegal training programs in the state of Washington. Formal ABA approval signifies that these programs meet or exceed the national standards for paralegal education set forth by the association. Numerous other Washington paralegal programs are offered which may provide sufficient background to the field, though they do not carry the ABA-approved credential.
The lack of formal certification requirements for Washington paralegals allows employers to hire candidates based on a variety of credentials. Employers may also maintain on-site training programs for candidates with little to no paralegal background. Paralegals working in Spokane County may wish to pursue the Paralegal Registration Program maintained by the Spokane County Bar Association. Registration does not confer membership in the Bar Association but does include exclusive benefits and official credentialing as a registered paralegal.
The state of Washington does offer a Limited License Legal Technician (LLLT) credential, which allows those with this license to offer 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 and 45 credit hours of legal studies courses from an ABA-approved program and pass one of three approved examinations. To learn more about the LLLT license, visit the Washington State Bar Association website.
Paralegals and legal assistants in Washington are strongly encouraged to seek voluntary national certification through a national paralegal or legal assistant association such as the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) or the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA). Both 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. Prospective paralegals are also encouraged to refer to the Washington State Paralegal Association for more information regarding the education and employment of paralegals and legal assistants in Washington State. For more information on national paralegal certification, read our guide Steps to Become a Paralegal.
Career Quick Start Tips — 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 an associate’s or bachelor’s degree with a paralegal major. Certification and experience, including internships, can also aid candidates seeking Washington paralegal jobs. Promising applicants may also be offered on-the-job training. You can read about the preparation offered by paralegal schools in Washington on our Washington paralegal programs page.
Future Washington paralegals may also wish to consider national certification as a step towards a paralegal career. Though it is not required, voluntary certification through a recognized organization is desirable for many employers. You can get a better idea of the credentials required for paralegal jobs in Washington on our jobs board.
Paralegals play an integral role in their firms and for their firms’ clients. A large part of a paralegal’s success is being able to draw upon the right resources when needed. The following Washington paralegal resources will help you take your career in the right direction.
Washington Paralegal Career Books
- Washington Legal Research – Written by professors from Seattle University School of Law and the University of Washington School of Law, two of the most recognized paralegal schools in Washington, this reference guide to legal research in Washington is indispensable for the working paralegal. The book includes sections for all major types of legal research that legal professionals in Washington are likely to undertake, with overviews of secondary sources, case finding tools, and much more.
- International Law Legal Research – Paralegals working in one of Washington’s many international corporations or in an area of government that involves international law will find this guide to legal research strategies in the international arena helpful for building legal research skills. In addition to overviews of research strategies, the book gives explanations of various search tools for international legal sources.
- Washington Notary Law Primer – Paralegals are often called upon to perform notary acts as part of their regular duties. This primer helps paralegals understand the major aspects of notary law in Washington as well as less commonly encountered issues and is a useful foundation for the beginning paralegal as well as a valuable reference for the experienced professional.
- Washington Environmental Law Handbook – The state of Washington is frequently recognized as having among the most stringent environmental protection laws in the US, making it beneficial for legal professionals in all practice areas to have familiarity with the state’s environmental laws. This handbook covers state and federal environmental protection statutes and regulations in an accessible manner. Now in its fifth edition, the book is available in print as well as in e-book format.
- Washington Insurance Law – Written to be accessible to experienced professionals as well as those new to insurance law, this guide covers major insurance issues that paralegals working in insurance law and related areas are likely to encounter. The theory and practice of insurance law in Washington is tied to statutes and precedents within the text, helping to illustrate key points. Complex insurance coverage issues and disputes are also covered.
- Washington Employment Law Deskbook – Few legal texts run to 20 editions, and as a useful reference the Washington Employment Law Deskbook has made that honor. Written by the Employment and Labor Law Group at Davis Wright Tremaine, this text summarizes state and federal employment law concisely. Paralegals working in employment law and related practice areas will find this deskbook an integral part of their reference library.
- Washington Real Estate Law – With a focus on real estate law at the state level, this reference examines common issues in real estate transactions using case studies and legal precedents. Generously supplemented with graphics, summaries, and exercises, this book is a helpful introduction and continuing reference for paralegals looking to specialize in this area.
Paralegal Job Search Websites for Washington
- Washington State Bar Association – The Washington State Bar Association hosts a public employment board that includes many Washington paralegal jobs.
- King County Bar Association – The King County Bar Association is a more localized source for paralegal jobs in Washington.
- Paralegal411 jobs board – You can also find paralegal career opportunities in Washington on our jobs board.
Washington Court Info
- Courts.WA.gov – The Washington Courts website serves as a portal to all major courts in the state’s jurisdiction. From this site visitors can access court and case search functions, view the rules of the courts, and access court forms. The site also includes links to unofficial case law in Washington back to 1854; official reports may be accessed at the state-supported county law libraries.
Law Libraries in Washington
- Washington State County Law Libraries – County law libraries are established and supported in each county in Washington by state law. These libraries are typically open to the public, depending on staff availability. On this site, you can view address and contact information for each of the county law libraries.
- Gallagher Law Library at the University of Washington School of Law – Hosting a world-class collection of legal materials, the Gallagher Law Library is open to the public and legal professionals who are not affiliated with the university during regular hours. Non-students may register as borrowers to receive circulation privileges. Visitors may also use the library’s electronic databases for legal research.
Paralegal Associations in Washington
- Washington State Paralegal Association – The Washington State Paralegal Association serves paralegals across the state of Washington. Founded in 1975, the association works to promote the paralegal profession and the professional development of its membership. This active association hosts frequent seminars, conferences, and regular meetings. Membership dues are $110 per year for active members and $50 per year for students.
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, Washington: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_wa.htm
5. American Bar Association: https://www.americanbar.org/groups/paralegals/paralegal-resource-directory/