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Hiring Trends for Paralegals in the State of California's Attorney General's Office

published April 30, 2011

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Even though the Department of Justice has endured budget cuts to the tune of over $100 million over a three year period, one obvious way for the Attorney General's office to cut costs would be to hire additional paralegals – something that so far has not happened,.

Paralegals, who can often perform the bulk of support work for attorneys, as well as tasks often performed by attorneys at a cheaper rate, present an obvious cost cutting measure.

Tom Chase, owner of Chase Legal Professionals Inc. in Folsom was quoted as saying: ''There has been a push, and clients have forced the push, starting in the early or mid '90s to lower the costs of their legal bills and use as many lower-level, inexpensive people as they can. Paralegals are definitely part of that process.''

According to the article, the 1992 ''DuPont Model'' influenced the staffing and hiring trends in legal industry. As a means of reducing their legal expenses, the company increased their paralegals from six to 40. This vastly changed the ratio of attorneys to paralegals, decreasing it to two-to-one.

According to the article, a 2009 report by Tracy Wymer, senior research director at the Pennsylvania-based staffing firm Knoll Inc., shows that current industry ratios call for no more than nine attorneys to one paralegal. However, four is generally acceptable for many firms, and some have as few as two attorneys for every paralegal.

According to the article, as of July 1, 2010, the AG's office had 149 legal analysts or senior legal analysts, their equivalent of paralegals, and 1,122 attorneys, according to figures from state controller John Chiang's office. This results in a ratio of 7.5 attorneys for every paralegal, placing it within industry norms.

According to the article, a spokesperson for the AG's office explained the state finds it difficult to compete with private law firms to hire paralegals at approved pay rates. A legal analyst for the state earns between $46,000 and $56,000, and a senior legal analyst's maximum salary is $67,400.

However, according to 2008 figures from the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, this puts the state well within industry norms for the profession. The national median salary for paralegals was $46,120, however, most worked in areas with a lower cost of living than California. Paralegals in the federal government actually had a higher median salary, $58,540, than those in corporate firms, $55,190.

According to the article, the spokesperson for the AG said that because the nature of their work is so litigation intensive, this limits the numbers of paralegals they can use. However, Tom Chase says ''the law firms that hire a lot of paralegals are often the same ones that do a lot of litigation.'' For example, paralegals frequently ''sit in on depositions and summarize them'', and put together exhibits for trial.

The AG's office charges state agencies $120 per hour for a paralegal's time. In 2004, the rate was $132 an hour for attorneys and $91 for paralegals. That translates to a 33% increase over the last seven years.

California firms are hiring paralegals now. To know latest job updates see here.