In Australia what do paralegals typically get paid? Why is the Legal Services Award relevant? Does my salary increase when I am admitted as a lawyer?
In Australia, the salary for paralegals can vary based on factors such as experience, location, the type of firm or organisation, and specific duties. Generally, entry-level, full time paralegals might earn between AUD $45,000 to $60,000 annually, with more experienced paralegals earning upwards of AUD $70,000 or more per year. However, these figures can vary significantly depending on the region and the specific employer. If you are working on a per hour or casual basis as a paralegal you should expect $30 + super hour as a minimum expectation. Legal industry employers must reference the Legal Services Award in any employment contract issued to a paralegal.
The Legal Services Award in Australia sets out minimum employment standards and conditions for employees working in the legal industry. It covers matters such as minimum wages, overtime, penalty rates, and other entitlements for employees including paralegals. This award is relevant because it outlines the basic rights and conditions that employees in the legal sector are entitled to, including paralegals. Employers are legally required to comply with the provisions of this award, ensuring fair wages and working conditions.
At Yegal our paralegals are most commonly employed under the Legal Services Award. All of our paralegals are employed as casuals because they tend to work on projects that in-frequent or short term in nature. On many occasions, we see paralegals convert temporary contracts into full time employment with the client directly. (Yegal steps away from the paralegal employment relationship in this instance.)
Regarding salary increase upon admission as a lawyer, it’s common for individuals who transition from a paralegal role to a qualified lawyer to experience a salary increase. As a lawyer, your earning potential typically increases due to factors such as increased responsibility, expertise, and the ability to take on more complex legal work. However, the exact increase in salary upon becoming a lawyer can vary widely based on the employer, geographic location, the specific legal field, and individual performance.
Upon admission as a lawyer, your salary may increase significantly compared to your paralegal role, especially if you join a law firm or move into a position with greater responsibility within an organisation. It’s important to note that while admission as a lawyer generally correlates with a salary increase, the specific amount can vary greatly based on numerous factors including the ones mentioned above. Additionally, salaries for lawyers are often structured based on experience, performance, and the firm’s salary scale.
When negotiating salary with your current employer we often recommend going to seek out alternative employment offers concurrently so that you can better assess your market value.
In the Australian setting, law student paralegals should pay close attention to the number of students graduating each year with similar qualifications to them. This is because your ability to negotiate salary is to a large extent influenced by the number of people likely to be competing for your role.