How to Become a Paralegal in Mississippi
Paralegals support attorneys with a wide variety of tasks related to law and the legal profession. While the specific assigned duties will vary depending on the specialty of practice, typical paralegal responsibilities may include the following, no matter if you choose to practice in Mississippi or another state:
- Drafting legal documents
- Taking statements and affidavits
- Preparing contracts such as mortgages
- Conducting research pertaining to specific cases
They may also help attorneys during trials by taking notes, reviewing transcripts and handling exhibits relevant to the case. There are no educational or certification requirements to become a paralegal in Mississippi but since this is a competitive field most who choose the profession have earned at least an associate’s degree and preferably a bachelor’s degree.
Steps to Become a Paralegal
There are certain steps you should take to become a paralegal in Mississippi. Here’s a quick list of what you’ll need to do:
Choose an area to specialize in.
Just as lawyers must choose a certain type of law to practice, paralegals should concentrate on a certain aspect of the field.
Complete your education.
Although in theory a degree isn’t required most employers hire paralegals who hold at least a bachelor’s degree.
While certification and licensure isn’t required by the state most attorneys look for professionally certified paralegals because it exemplifies your knowledge and expertise.
Do an internship.
If this isn’t part of your degree program, look for an internship in a legal aid office or nonprofit agency so you know what it’s like to work in the field.
Apply for entry level jobs.
Once you graduate you’ll need to work in a lower level position for a year or two to gain experience before obtaining your dream job.
Paralegal Education Requirements in Mississippi
Although there are no state education requirements to become a paralegal almost half of working paralegals hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to less than 20 percent who hold an associate’s degree in legal studies.
Paralegal Licensure and Certification
According to Mississippi state law you don’t need to be certified to work as a paralegal as there are no state regulations. The fact of the matter is that most law firms and corporations that employ paralegals prefer to hire those who hold a national professional certification credential. By passing the educational and exam requirements of the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) or the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) you will demonstrate your knowledge and skills in the field, which makes you more employable.
These respected designations are available by paying a fee and passing a rigorous exam that tests your legal expertise in communications, judgment and analytical ability, ethics, legal research and substantive law. There are different experience levels of certifications, and you must complete continuing education units over a set period of time to keep your certification current.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), paralegals in Mississippi earn slightly lower wages than the national median average of $49,500, but the job growth projection is slightly higher than the eight percent job growth the BLS anticipates. That said, the mean annual wage for Mississippi paralegals is $46,590, with the top 10 percent in the field earning over $70,650. Keep in mind that the higher wages are typically held by those with higher degrees and the most experience on the job.
Location may also play a factor in salary, with paralegals working in cities earning more. As an example, paralegals working in Hattiesburg earned a mean annual wage of $54,060, while those in Jackson earned $52,320.
Career Opportunities for Paralegals in Mississippi
The majority of paralegals in Mississippi work for law firms and the highest concentration of jobs are in the Jackson metropolitan area. Aside from law firms paralegals are employed by insurance agencies, financial institutions, and corporations; examples of Mississippi corporations include Nissan North America, Howard Industries and Tyson Foods, Inc.
Final Steps: Paralegal Association and Continuing Education in Mississippi
Once you begin working on your degree you’ll want to apply for a student membership in the Mississippi Paralegal Association. This group is affiliated with the affiliate of the National Association of Legal Assistants and will give you vital contacts within the field. The association holds regular professional development meetings and also offers networking opportunities. You’ll also have access to resources for any continuing education your employer requires to meet the needs of their specialty practice area of law.
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