Lawyer Vs. Paralegal: Difference & Salary

Lawyers and paralegals are both legal professionals, but lawyers have more training, more authority and higher salaries. This article explores some of the key differences in their roles in greater detail.

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Comparing Lawyers to Paralegals

Lawyers and paralegals share a common general objective, which is to provide legal services to their clients. Lawyers have more training, are qualified to provide legal counsel and may also present cases in court. Paralegals focus mainly on producing legal materials and conducting research.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Outlook (2016-2026)*
Lawyers Law degree $118,160 9%
Paralegals Associate's degree $49,500 15%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Lawyers vs. Paralegals

Lawyers and paralegals both interact with clients. Lawyers will listen to clients' legal issues and present them with options for handling their legal matters. In some cases, lawyers may be responsible for going to court and arguing a case. Paralegals work under the direction of lawyers and play an active role in gathering relevant information related to these clients' cases. Paralegals may be responsible for talking to witnesses and preparing affidavits. If a case goes to court, paralegals do the ground work before a trial to ensure that lawyers have all the materials and information that they need.


Lawyers are trained to provide legal counsel to clients and represent them in legal matters. They typically work in an office environment, although they may need to visit clients in jail or appear at court hearings and trials. It's important for lawyers to have analytical skills so that they can assess all relevant data when determining the best course of action to resolve a legal issue. They need interpersonal skills and communication skills to be able to effectively discuss issues and options with clients. Some lawyers work at law firms while others work for the government, and it is common for lawyers to work overtime. Lawyers may also specialize in specific areas of legal practice, such as criminal defense or environmental law.

Job responsibilities of a lawyer include:

  • Ensuring legal papers are filed with the court
  • Meeting with other attorneys to negotiate settlements
  • Writing legal regulations
  • Performing legal research
  • Delegating tasks to staff
  • Producing legal documents


Paralegals may work for private law firms or for the government. They spend much of their time working in an office and may occasionally work overtime. Paralegals interested in advancing to a role as a lawyer would need to earn a law degree and obtain their law license. Interpersonal skills are important for communicating with clients, and paralegals also need strong written communication skills to produce legal documents.

Job responsibilities of a paralegal include:

  • Reviewing case data
  • Locating relevant legal information
  • Preparing materials for court, such as exhibits
  • Maintaining client files
  • Providing information about legal regulations to clients or employers

Related Careers

Aspiring lawyers may also be interested in pursuing a career as a judge because these professionals are also involved in determining the application of laws and legal precedents. Paralegals may want to consider becoming a conflict analyst because conflict analysts perform legal research related to the cases and clients their law firm has handled. Learn more about these legal careers through the articles linked to here.

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