Why Is There High Turnover in the Paralegal Profession (2023)

Why is there high turnover in the paralegal profession? There are a number of answers, including toxic culture in law firms, career burnout, and a desire to move up. Burnout and other stresses may make paralegals feel like there is nowhere to go, but that’s not at all true. The law firm isn’t the only place for paralegal to work and thrive in their career. There are many non-law firm employers who welcome the paralegal as an employee and provide a working environment that’s less stressful than that of the law firm.

Why Do Paralegals Leave the Profession?

One of the top reasons for paralegals leaving the field is the result of a toxic work environment. The field of law is a high-pressure environment that can quickly wear down a paralegal. Cases are frequently won or lost on a technicality, and a paralegal can unwittingly introduce an error that causes a loss. It is the role of the attorney to oversee the work that is done by the paralegal, but attorneys also make mistakes by not paying attention. However, the paralegal frequently takes the blame, not the attorney, and burns out the willingness of a paralegal to perform, much less work in the field of law.

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It goes without saying that a paralegal needs to make sure their work is correct and free from error prior to handing it to the attorney, but a paralegal is not a lawyer and may not always pick up on a defect in the document. That doesn’t stop the attorney from blaming the paralegal, though, and causes paralegals to get fed up and find employment in less-stressful fields. The average turnover of paralegals depends on the law firm. Suffice to say, a law firm with a lot of paralegal turnover is a law firm with internal problems.

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Another issue that generates turnover is the fact one paralegal can work for multiple lawyers. When more than one lawyer makes demands of a paralegal to “get jobs done”, the pressure mounts on the paralegal. Even the best paralegals can only do so much to keep up with an unreasonable workload. If nothing is done to make it easier on the paralegal in terms of spreading out work, the paralegal winds up taking on an unfair amount of work for less pay than a lawyer receives. Some paralegals decide to return to school and earn an advanced law degree or go for their juris doctorate in order to work as a lawyer themselves and leave the stress of the paralegal field behind.

Can You Go to Law School With a Paralegal Degree?

You can’t go directly to law school with a paralegal degree, but you can return to school and earn an undergraduate degree in legal studies, then apply for law school. A paralegal going to law school has an advantage in that they’ve worked in law firms, are familiar with the practice of law and can use that knowledge to help them achieve high grades. Having high grades frequently results in better employment opportunities as the more prestigious law firms prefer to hire students who were at the top of their class.

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In the event a paralegal wants to stay employed in the legal field, but doesn’t want to become a lawyer, they can earn their bachelor’s of legal studies and work in more advanced paralegal roles. The more education a paralegal has, the more appealing they are to attorneys who need someone to perform specialized functions that someone with an associate’s in paralegal studies may not be capable of doing. Paralegals who gain education and experience in advanced legal studies tend to not work in the general paralegal pool and deal with less stress as a result.

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What Kind of Paralegal Career Advancement is Possible?

Paralegal career advancement comes in many forms. A paralegal that decides to stay in their role can advance to the role of senior paralegal over time and gain seniority or a paralegal manager title. Many law firms reward their paralegals with bonuses for good work performed throughout the year and makes it worth putting up with the stress. The most traditional paralegal career advancement is to, as previously mentioned, earn a bachelor’s in legal studies, then get a juris doctorate to work as a lawyer. For paralegals who want to transition out of the legal industry and into other roles that utilize their skill set, there are plenty of career options available to them.

Paralegals can transition into a variety of jobs that require the legal training and expertise that a paralegal learns in school and during their employment. Legal and corporate libraries hire paralegals for their ability to research and find works that are relevant to a topic at hand. Title research companies utilize the skills of paralegals to research property titles and make sure they are free from encumbrances. Foreclosure departments at financial institutions need paralegals to generate and process the paperwork involved in foreclosing on a property. Paralegals who have work experience can teach classes at a local college or university. And last, but not least, another optionis to become a mediator and help two opposing parties resolve an outstanding problem.


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What are the challenges of being a paralegal? ›

They help lawyers by researching case facts, gathering supporting evidence, organizing files, drafting legal documents and contacting witnesses. While their role is important, paralegals encounter obstacles, including time pressure, limited upward mobility, lack of appreciation and limited technological resources.

Why is being a paralegal stressful? ›

Being a paralegal is stressful, and paralegal burnout is real. Paralegals work notoriously long hours, and their tasks include everything from office management to doing case research and preparing and editing legal contracts and documents. Paralegal's tasks have a direct impact on the outcomes of matters and cases.

Why does the paralegal profession continue to grow? ›

As law firms try to increase the efficiency of legal services and reduce their costs, they are expected to hire more paralegals and legal assistants.

Where is there a high demand for paralegals? ›

The demand for paralegals is high, especially in urban centers and metropolitan areas.

What are four things that a paralegal Cannot do? ›

Generally, paralegals may not represent clients in court, take depositions, or sign pleadings. Some federal and state administrative agencies, however, do permit nonlawyer practice.

Why is being a paralegal so hard? ›

Stressful and Challenging Work Environment

You may answer to several attorneys at once, each with different needs. Clients, too, can be demanding and difficult. The ability to switch gears quickly and to multitask under pressure is critical to your success as a paralegal.

Do law firms have high turnover? ›

Law firms might not have the leverage to push strict return-to-office rules on associates when the time comes. The Georgetown/Thomson Reuters Institute report included a comparison of firms that experienced low turnover (on average, less than 9% among all lawyers), and those with high attrition (above 18%).

Do paralegals make mistakes? ›

Even experienced paralegals make mistakes, and god knows you'll see lawyers themselves make plenty of them. But there are certain mistakes brand-new paralegals seem to be famous for making.

Why are paralegals in high demand? ›

In addition to the many law firms within the state, the strong corporate presence in major cities is expected to sustain a sizable demand for paralegals in California as companies diversify their legal departments.

What makes a successful paralegal? ›

An indispensable paralegal has an ability to multitask, a strong attention to detail, a willingness to learn, an expertise in organization, and psychic abilities.

How do paralegals succeed? ›

Which paralegal skills matter most, and why?
  1. Attention to detail. ...
  2. Multitasking. ...
  3. Observation skills. ...
  4. A good memory. ...
  5. Writing ability. ...
  6. Critical thinking. ...
  7. Empathy and teamwork.
Oct 11, 2021

What state pays paralegals most? ›

New York and Texas also pay paralegals well: Average Salary for Paralegals in New York is $58,070.
Best Paying States for Paralegals.
StateParalegal Salary -2019 Annual Mean Wage
3 more rows

What state has the highest demand for paralegals? ›

Paralegal Salaries by State
RankStateUS Average10-Year Growth (2018-2028)312%
1West Virginia11%
42 more rows

What are the pros and cons of a paralegal? ›

Training and Earnings for Paralegals
  • Pro: Training. If the legal business calls to you, but years of law school and the bar exam don't, then being a paralegal may be a great alternative. ...
  • Con: Salary. ...
  • Pro: Less Debt. ...
  • Con: Job Stability. ...
  • Pro: More Job Opportunities. ...
  • Pro: Freedom. ...
  • Con: Juggling. ...
  • Con: Time.

What is a conflict of interest in paralegal? ›

Conflicts of interest involving paralegals usually result from personal and business relationships outside the legal environment or from legal matters handled at the paralegal's prior employment.

What ethical issues typically arise for paralegals? ›

Failing to Recognize Paralegal Issues Threatening Client Confidentiality
  • Written communications and documents.
  • Verbal and nonverbal communications with the client.
  • Verbal communication regarding the client that may be overheard.
  • Electronic and hard copy files.
  • Electronic communications, including emails and social media.
Jan 17, 2023

What are three important qualities that paralegals need? ›

An indispensable paralegal has an ability to multitask, a strong attention to detail, a willingness to learn, an expertise in organization, and psychic abilities.
  • Ability to multitask. ...
  • Strong attention to detail. ...
  • Willingness to learn. ...
  • Expertise in organization. ...
  • Psychic abilities.
Jan 21, 2021


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