Wisconsin Paralegal Career Guide
Our guide is designed to help you learn how to become a paralegal in Wisconsin and launch your paralegal career. This page contains in-depth information on paralegal salary in Wisconsin, state-level job outlook, and career resources to help you set yourself apart. Get started using the simple directory below.
Table of Contents:
- Paralegal Careers
- Job Outlook In Wisconsin
- Salary Outlook
- Paralegal Certification
- Career Quick Start Tips – How to Become a Paralegal in Wisconsin
- Additional Paralegal Resources
Law firms continue to be the primary employers of paralegal and legal assistant labor. Larger, multi-practice firms generally delegate paralegals based on legal area, thus giving paralegals and legal assistants an opportunity to work closely with attorneys and specialize within a specific area of law. Quarles & Brady LLP is a Milwaukee multi-practice law firm with international reach. With offices nationwide, a diverse client base, and a reputation for excellent client service, Quarles & Brady provides a distinct large firm environment. Michael Best & Friedrich LLP is another leading midwest law firm with offices in Milwaukee, Madison, Waukesha, and Manitowoc, as well as a branch in Chicago, Illinois. As a broad-based law firm, Michael Best & Friedrich LLP delegates tasks based on practice area, encouraging paralegals to gain an in-depth understanding of a particular legal subject while developing an understanding of the general field.
Smaller firms may provide a more general introduction to the field and have a more personal working environment. Other sources of paralegal jobs in Wisconsin include in-house corporate legal departments, which may provide a slightly different experience and work environment than traditional law office employment. Wisconsin hosts several large corporations including Johnson Controls, Inc., Kohl’s Corp., Oshkosh Corp., and Rockwell Automation Inc. Additional paralegal opportunities may be found at government agencies.
Job Outlook in Wisconsin
Projected Job Growth
Paralegals in Wisconsin from 2016-20261
In May 2017, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that 4,720 paralegals and legal assistants were employed in Wisconsin, a substantial increase over the 3,420 paralegals and legal assistants counted in the state in 2012.2 The paralegal profession has already undergone expansion nationwide as law offices have allocated more substantial tasks to paralegals and legal assistants in an effort to minimize hourly expenses. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected 15% job growth for paralegals and legal assistants nationwide from 2016 to 2026.3 Wisconsin paralegals and legal assistants should see slower, but still positive, job growth over the same period, at 9.3%.1
Wisconsin Paralegal Salary Outlook
In 2017, the average Wisconsin paralegal salary was estimated at $48,820.2 Given the state’s lower cost of living, the average paralegal salary in Wisconsin is comparable to the average national paralegal salary at $53,910.2 The average Wisconsin paralegal salary is also higher in urban areas, with a median of $52,450 reported in Milwaukee and a median of $54,020 reported in Madison.2 Overall, the career and salary outlook for paralegals within Wisconsin is positive, reflecting the national expansion of the field.
Wisconsin Paralegal Salary Info By Metro Area
An overview of Wisconsin 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 Wisconsin
Currently, paralegals are defined under Wisconsin’s Rule of Professional Conduct 5.3, which states that attorneys must directly supervise all non-lawyer assistants and adopt responsibility for the professional conduct of those assistants. This rule further stipulates that attorneys must instruct paralegals and legal assistants in professional confidentiality and ethics. Wisconsin has not instituted any mandatory Wisconsin paralegal certification. This allows for on-site training of paralegals and legal assistants, though employers generally prefer candidates with some paralegal training. Currently, the American Bar Association (ABA) has approved six Wisconsin paralegal programs. These programs may vary in duration, content and rigor, but each has achieved or exceeded the ABA’s minimum standard of proficiency. Other paralegal schools in Wisconsin offer degrees and certificates to prepare for legal assisting careers.
Though Wisconsin paralegal certification is not required, the Wisconsin State Bar Association (WSBA) offers a voluntary certification program that leads to the State Bar of Wisconsin Certified Paralegal credential. To qualify, paralegals must be working in the field while supervised by a lawyer working in Wisconsin and meet education and experience requirements. For more information, visit the WSBA website.
Attending one of the numerous Wisconsin paralegal programs can provide the entry-level credentials necessary to earn the State Bar of Wisconsin Certified Paralegal designation and compete in the job market. Paralegals and legal assistants in Wisconsin are encouraged to seek membership and guidance from the Madison Area Paralegal Association or the Paralegal Association of Wisconsin. Paralegals are also encouraged to seek national certification through the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA), or the Association of Legal Professionals (NALS).
Career Quick Start Tips — How to Become a Paralegal in Wisconsin
Since Wisconsin paralegal certification is not mandatory, prospective paralegals may follow a variety of paths to a career in the legal field. Organizations such as NALA, the NFPA, and NALS offer voluntary certification designed to ensure a consistent level of professional expertise for paralegals and legal assistants nationwide. To qualify for national certification, candidates must typically have completed a program at one of the paralegal schools in Wisconsin or another state. Prospective paralegals with formal paralegal education, national certification, and work experience will have a competitive edge in the expanding job market. You can find out more about national certification in our guide Steps to Become a Paralegal. You can also gain a better understanding of the typical requirements for Wisconsin paralegal jobs on our jobs board.
Paralegals play a central support role in the organizations for which they work, allowing them to make a positive impact for their firms and their firms’ clients. Key to success in a paralegal role is having the most current information available when the need arises. These resources for Wisconsin paralegals can help you get started.
Wisconsin Paralegal Career Books
Wisconsin Legal Research – This guide to legal research focused on sources of law relevant for Wisconsin professionals gives a comprehensive overview of print and electronic resources. Chapters on Wisconsin administrative law and legislative history provide particularly helpful coverage for state-specific research.
Wisconsin Discovery Law and Practice – Written by some of Wisconsin’s most respected attorneys, Wisconsin Discovery Law and Practice includes current supplements through the 2013-2014 legislative session. This book, particularly helpful for litigation paralegals, guides legal professionals through the fundamentals of discovery in Wisconsin law and process. Real-life examples, tips, and sample questions provide efficient means of understanding and applying the text to practice.
Wisconsin Law of Trusts and Estates: Cases and Materials – Paralegals working in family law and probate will find this guide to trusts and estates, based on Wisconsin case law and statute, a helpful ongoing reference. Notations throughout highlight where Wisconsin law diverges from national norms. The book’s structure helps paralegals and other legal professionals understand not just the letter but the history and development of Wisconsin law.
Davenport’s Wisconsin Will and Estate Planning Legal Forms Booklet – This book includes fillable forms for the most common will and estate planning needs, including the most recent forms drafted by the Wisconsin legislature. Covered are basic wills, self-proving affidavits, and power of attorney forms. Electronic copies of the forms are provided to purchasers.
Paralegal Job Search Websites for Wisconsin
The Paralegal Association of Wisconsin maintains a members-only employment listings service that includes Wisconsin paralegal jobs from across the state. You can access even more paralegal jobs in Wisconsin on the Paralegal411 jobs board.
Wisconsin Court Info
WICourts.gov – The Wisconsin Court System is the main portal for all courts in the state of Wisconsin. This site includes links to all courts within the system, court news and events, rules and forms, and e-filing systems. Users can also use the case search and opinions functions to perform legal research.
Law Libraries in Wisconsin
Wisconsin State Law Library – The Wisconsin State Law Library is based in Madison, with a satellite Dane County Law Library also in Madison and a secondary location in Milwaukee. The library also provides a borrow-by-mail service on circulating materials for registered attorneys.
University of Wisconsin Law Library – Situated on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, this law library is open to the general public. The library collections encompass over 500,000 volumes in print in addition to an expansive electronic collection that includes access to common databases. The library also extends circulation privileges to Wisconsin residents who apply for a law library card.
Paralegal Associations in Wisconsin
Madison Area Paralegal Association – The Madison Area Paralegal Association is an affiliate of the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA). The association counts over 130 members and is able to provide regular networking and continuing education opportunities. Annual dues are $70 for active members, $35 for associate members, $30 for government employees, and $25 for students.
Paralegal Association of Wisconsin – A member of the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA), the Paralegal Association of Wisconsin seeks to promote the paralegal profession and its members’ professional development. The association has vocally supported mandatory paralegal licensing in Wisconsin. Annual dues are $100 for active members, $80 for associate members, and $45 for student members.
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, Wisconsin: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_wi.htm
5. American Bar Association: https://www.americanbar.org/groups/paralegals/paralegal-resource-directory/