How to Become a Paralegal in South Dakota
As a major support system for lawyers and legal departments, paralegals can find great reward in their career. With a detailed eye for research, writing and communication, paralegals may find themselves doing a variety of tasks on a daily basis, depending on their area of work.
What Does a Paralegal Do?
Paralegal roles vary by industry. Paralegals for a criminal lawyer will have different tasks than paralegals working in a corporation. The general role of paralegals is to be responsible for helping lawyers prepare for meetings, trials and hearings. Paralegals may collect, analyze and organize information for lawyers. Some other core duties of a paralegal—in South Dakota or elsewhere— include the following:
- Gathering and arranging evidence
- Drafting correspondence
- Filing documents, appeals or briefs
- Coordinate the logistics of attending a trial
- Organize paperwork in paper or electronic filing systems
Paralegal Education for South Dakota
South Dakota has licensing requirements for paralegal education, employment or registration. Paralegals must work under the direct supervision of an attorney according to South Dakota Supreme Court Rule 5.3, and South Dakota’s Supreme Court Rule 97-25 sets minimum qualifications for legal assistants or paralegals. The choices for these qualifications are:
- National certification from the National Association of Legal Assistants, Inc. as a Certified Legal Assistant (CLA)
- Completion of an American Bar Association (ABA) approved paralegal program
- Completion of coursework in paralegal studies at an accredited, but not ABA-approved educational institution, for sixty semester hours of classroom study· Completion of a course of study for paralegals, in addition to the courses previously described, and a minimum of six months of in-house paralegal training
- A bachelor’s degree in any subject, and a minimum of six months of in-house paralegal training
- At least three years of law-related experience under the supervision of a licensed attorney, that includes a minimum of six months of in-house paralegal training
- A high school diploma and two years of in-house training as a paralegal
Traits of a Good Paralegal
A good education is important, but personal qualifications matter in being successful. Paralegals should have basic understanding of the law including legal terminology, but other skills such as computer skills for research, excellent reading skills, communication skills, and organizational skills are useful. Being ethical is essential. Keeping client interaction private, respecting the confidentiality of documents, and not going beyond your qualifications are ethics paralegals should practice.
Steps to Become a Paralegal in South Dakota
Complete the qualifications under South Dakota’s Supreme Court Rule 97-25
Accreditation through the American Bar Association or other courses is not mandatory, but can help you have better employment choices and success. Some other certifications can be obtained through:
- Professional Administrative Certification of Excellence (PACE) offered by the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA)
- Paralegal Core Competency (PCC) offered by National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA)
- Certified Legal Assistant/Certified Paralegal (CLA/CP) offered by the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA)
- Professional Paralegal (PP) offered by the Association for Legal Professionals (NALS)
Obtain Certification in Specialties
A paralegal with a general certification will earn less pay than a paralegal with specialized certification. Some specializations you can earn as a paralegal are, in addition to the ABA paralegal certification, nurse or medical paralegal, family law, immigration and litigation.
Keep up with Credentials
You can keep up with industry news and changes by joining professional organizations and pursuing continuing education through online and university courses. Subscribing to paralegal magazines such as Litigation Support Today and trade magazines specific to your industry can help you stay current with paralegal regulations and industry requirements. Additional online resources include the National Association of Legal Assistants, Inc. (NALA) and the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA). In South Dakota, the trade association for paralegals is the South Dakota Paralegal Association (SDPA).
Obtain professional experience as a paralegal under the direction of a qualified lawyer. This is a requirement from the American Bar Association under the ABA Rules of Professional Conduct 5.3.
Paralegal Salary and Job Outlook in South Dakota
The mean annual salary for a paralegal in South Dakota, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is $44,560 and the median national salary for paralegals is reported as $49,500 according to the BLS, so South Dakota is just under the national average.
Paralegal job growth in South Dakota should increase at 18.4 percent over the next decade, according to the South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation and with the BLS reporting a 15 percent job growth for paralegals nationally, you can see South Dakota should be hiring.
Salaries are often dependent upon your length of time working in the field, education level and where you work. For example, Rapid City paralegals earned a mean annual wage of $41,430, and those working in Sioux Falls earned $49,010.
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