Wisconsin Paralegal Career and Salary Guide
This guide is designed to help you learn how to become a paralegal in Wisconsin and launch your paralegal career. Certification is not required in the state, but is available on a voluntary basis to qualified applicants. Earning an accredited college degree or certificate is typically suggested to begin working in this field. On this page, you will find in-depth information on paralegal salaries in Wisconsin, the state-level job outlook for paralegals, and career resources to help you set yourself apart. Get started using the simple directory below.
Table of Contents
- How to Become a Paralegal in Wisconsin
- Paralegal Certification
- Paralegal Career and Salary Outlook
- Paralegal Resources
How to Become a Paralegal in Wisconsin
Paralegal certification is not mandatory in Wisconsin, but it is offered by the State Bar of Wisconsin (SBW) to qualified candidates. Many aspiring paralegals complete an accredited certificate or degree program in paralegal studies in Wisconsin. Gaining hands-on experience either through a college internship program or on-the-job training also provides an edge in the job market. Earning voluntary paralegal certification can demonstrate competency to potential employers and show commitment to the profession.
1. Earn a degree or certificate in paralegal studies.
Many paralegal schools in Wisconsin offer an associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, or certificate in paralegal studies. These programs can help you gain the knowledge necessary to be successful in a paralegal position. The American Bar Association (ABA) has approved six paralegal education programs in Wisconsin.1
2. Gain experience.
Many paralegal programs offer real-world experiences such as internships and work placements. These hands-on experiences can help you apply your education and gain confidence in the role of a paralegal. Even if your degree or certificate program doesn’t offer work experience for credit, entry-level paralegal job experience can also be gained by looking for volunteering, job shadowing, and job recruitment programs. This work experience can lead to useful job references, contacts, or even job opportunities.
3. Seek certification, if desired.
While Wisconsin does not require paralegal licensure or certification, voluntary certification is available and could help you stand out from the competition when applying for paralegal jobs. Read more about certification below.
Paralegal Certification in Wisconsin
In Wisconsin, 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. This allows for on-site training of paralegals and legal assistants, though employers may prefer candidates who are certified or have some paralegal training.
Paralegals and legal assistants in Wisconsin are further encouraged to seek certification through the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA, the Paralegal Association), the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA), or the Association of Legal Professionals (NALS), which recognize paralegal competency at a national level. You can find out more about national certification in our guide Steps to Become a Paralegal.
Though Wisconsin paralegal certification is not required, the State Bar of Wisconsin (SBW) offers a voluntary certification program that leads to the State Bar of Wisconsin Certified Paralegal (SBWCP) credential. To qualify, paralegals must be working in the field while supervised by a lawyer licensed in Wisconsin and meet education and/or experience requirements. To be eligible for certification by meeting the education requirement, paralegals must have an associate or bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies from an approved school or an accredited associate or bachelor’s degree in any subject with at least 18 credits of paralegal coursework. To be eligible via the experience requirement, Wisconsin paralegals must have a high school diploma and have at least 4,800 hours of paralegal experience in the past five years or have taught for at least three years in an approved paralegal studies training program. For more information on requirements and the application, visit the SBW website.
Wisconsin Paralegal Career and Salary Outlook
Many Wisconsin law firms employ paralegals and legal assistants. Larger, multi-practice firms may 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 operates nationwide for a diverse client base, with a Milwaukee multi-practice office. Michael Best & Friedrich LLP is another large midwest law firm with expertise in many areas of the law, with offices in Milwaukee, Madison, Waukesha, and Manitowoc. Smaller firms may provide a more general introduction to the field and offer 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, Kohl’s Corp., Oshkosh Corp., and Rockwell Automation Inc. Additional paralegal opportunities may be found at government agencies. LinkedIn is a good research resource where you can search on geography (Wisconsin or city-level) for “paralegal” to find networking opportunities and also companies most associated with users identifying as paralegals; companies in Wisconsin with the most LinkedIn users as paralegals include:
- Foley & Lardner LLP
- Godfrey & Kahn, S.C.
- Milwaukee County
- Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren s.c.
- Quarles & Brady LLP
- University of Wisconsin-Madison
- University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
- von Briesen & Roper, s.c.
For more information about paralegal careers, take a look at our careers page.
Wisconsin Paralegal Salary Information
Projected Job Growth
Paralegals in Wisconsin from 2018-20282
In May 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimated that 4,320 paralegals and legal assistants were employed in Wisconsin.3 Projections Central has predicted 12% job growth for paralegals and legal assistants nationwide from 2018 to 2028; Wisconsin paralegals and legal assistants are projected to experience slower, but still positive, job growth over the same period, at 4.2% with an average of 560 job openings per year.2
In May 2020, the average Wisconsin paralegal salary was estimated at $50,950.3 While this is lower than the national average annual salary ($56,610), Wisconsin paralegals and legal assistants will typically have a lower cost of living, which may account for the difference.3 The average Wisconsin paralegal salary is also higher in the capital city of Madison, which has an annual average salary of $58,540.3 Overall, the career and salary outlook for paralegals within Wisconsin is positive, reflecting the national expansion of the field.
Wisconsin Paralegal Salary by Metro Area
|Metro Area||Number Employed4||Average Annual Salary4|
Paralegal Associations in Wisconsin
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.
- Madison Area Paralegal Association (MAPA): Provides regular networking and continuing education opportunities as a local affiliate of NALA, with over 130 members.
- Paralegal Association of Wisconsin (PAW): Promotes the voice of the paralegal profession in Wisconsin and offers professional development opportunities as a member of the NFPA.
- Paralegal 411’s Job Board: For job openings in Wisconsin, visit our jobs board.
- University of Wisconsin Law Library: Offers circulation privileges for over 500,000 print volumes and digital resources to University of Wisconsin-Madison students and any Wisconsin residents who apply for a law library card.
- Wisconsin Court System: Provides links to all courts within the Wisconsin system, as well as court news and events, rules and forms, e-filing systems, and legal research resources.
- Wisconsin State Law Library: Provides legal resources, research help, a borrow-by-mail service, and continuing legal education via three library branches in the state.
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