The International Paralegal Management Association (IPMA) is the leading authority for paralegal management professionals. The main requirement for membership could double as a definition of a paralegal manager: one whose duties include supervising at least one paralegal. “Paralegal managers can hold a variety of positions such as a working supervisor (must bill time) to a full-time administrative or director position. The managers are from law firms, in-house legal departments and government agencies,” stated founding member Chere Estrin.
A search of LinkedIn, conducted in May 2010, located profiles of paralegal managers with a variety of degrees. They included bachelor’s degrees in American studies, criminal justice, English, government and politics, political science and psychology; and master’s degrees in legal administration, management and finance and political science. There were also a number of paralegal managers with paralegal certificates.
Many paralegal managers started their careers as paralegals. One example is Brad Baber, one of the paralegal managers interviewed for the 2004 article, “Paralegals at the Top.” Baber completed an American Bar Association-approved paralegal certificate program and started his career as a paralegal for a large South Carolina-based law firm in 1986. He later accepted a promotion to the position of paralegal recruiting and training coordinator. In 2001, he accepted a paralegal manager position with a large Atlanta-based law firm. “I am responsible for more than 90 people, which includes mostly paralegals, a few project assistants, a few specialists and the litigation technology department,” he said in 2004.
Another example is Annette Schlaf, interviewed for the same 2004 article. Schlaf started her paralegal career with a large Houston-based law firm in 1985. She was promoted to assistant paralegal manager with that firm 10 years later, and assumed the role of the firm’s paralegal manager two years after that. Her LinkedIn profile reflects that she held the paralegal manager position through 2006. She thereafter held the position of office administrator with two different Texas-based law firms.
Three job postings for paralegal managers in May 2010, all from Indeed.com, indicated that a paralegal manager in Boston could earn between $80,000 and $100,000 a year. That falls in between the salary ranges of a senior paralegal in a large law firm and an office manager in a large law firm, as provided in the 2010 salary guide published by Robert Half Legal. That is appropriate when considering the fact that a paralegal manager may have a hybrid job, part paralegal and part office manager.
Some paralegal managers are responsible for their own caseloads in addition to the overall supervision of the services provided by the paralegals under their supervision. Others are responsible only for the management and administration of the paralegals under their supervision. Management and administration duties fall into basic categories such as personnel administration, policy and procedures, technology and financial management.
A paralegal manager’s duties include recruiting, hiring and training new paralegals; conducting disciplinary actions, counseling and terminations; providing, sponsoring and encouraging continuing legal education; assigning projects to paralegals; coordinating paralegal work-flow; and monitoring billable and non-billable paralegal hours. They also include preparing financial and statistical reports; participating in salary reviews and performance evaluations; promoting efficient and optimal utilization of paralegals; setting paralegal salaries and billing rates; and performing other administrative duties.