Whether one calls this career choice being a legal assistant or a paralegal, the truth is that it’s one of the best career paths for potential advancement, prestige and generous entry-level salary rewards. Depending on the state in which this career originates from, there are varying certification, training, educational requirements that need to be met.
While the salary and job outlook is not one and the same from one state to another, our guide below gives you a reasonable, broad overview of what to expect in Mississippi. Our overview covers:
- Where Do You Begin
- Paralegal Training
- Paralegal Certification Requirements
- Paralegal Schools
- Paralegal Job Outlook
- Paralegal Salary
Where Do You Begin
Well, basically, anywhere there is an attorney’s office. Hiring out as an office worker, a receptionist or simply a filing clerk helps get your foot in the proverbial door. It’s also been the first step in letting yourself be seen by those in a position to potentially recommend your service or job performance. This makes up what is known as in-house training.
Either through formal education at a two-year community college for an associate degree in paralegal studies, or by a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies at a four-year college or university, Mississippi offers ample opportunities to get the required training for this position.
Whether by in-house training or a formal course of study, paralegal/legal assistants may go on to obtain at least one of the below mentioned certifications: the CLA or the NALA.
A 2011 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that more than 1,700 people are classified working as paralegals in Mississippi, mostly being concentrated in Jackson. That being said, Mississippi’s Rule 5.3 defines the term legal “paraprofessional.” Moreover, those working under an attorney’s supervision must receive guidance in ethics and privacy issues from the supervisory attorney.
As Mississippi does not regulate paralegals by a state-set standard for training or education, entry-level aspirants to paralegal positions must undergo a formal education program or an on-the-job training experience.
A Definite Difference: Certification Or Certified
Please remember that as far as hiring to be a full, bona-fide paralegal is concerned, having a certificate from a school or training center, no matter how accredited and by whom, does not equate with being a CLA/CPA.
A truly certified paralegal means that the person applying for a position has successfully passed a certification exam by at least one of three below listed paralegal organizations:
– The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) provides the “CLA” exam
– The National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) gives the Advanced Competency Examination “PACE”
– The National Association of Legal Professionals (NALS) issues the Professional Paralegal “PP” exam .
Not all paralegal schools have been approved by the American Bar Association (ABA); moreover, from hundreds of schools offering paralegal studies and certificates, only two have passed the scrutiny of the ABA. They are the University of Southern Mississippi-Hattiesburg and the Mississippi University for Women-Columbus. Of the remaining schools for paralegal studies, only 16 are accredited by any agency.
Career and Job Outlook Opportunities
As of now, there seems no end on the horizon to the opportunities available for job openings and advancement. Wide and diverse fields such as working in the criminal justice system, human resources and welfare, the health care industry, in the offices of health insurance companies and in the banking industry, all offer promising outlooks for those who prepare for them.
Projected figures from now on through 2022, show a growth potential of 14.9 percent, a little bit lower than other averages for this particular career. However, it’s still considered as being in the high range.
On average, salary ranges in the Jackson, Mississippi region are comparable to national averages. Furthermore, considering that paralegal salaries came in at $44,160 to $48,540 and that Mississippi has a 10.9 percent lower cost of living index that other states, this makes salary ranges even more appealing.
Despite an apparent contradiction of labor statistics in reference to paralegals in Mississippi, the facts remain indisputable: there’s much room for optimism in the profession.
While most paralegals have gone to school via two-year associate programs at the local community college level, the better job openings go to those who prepare for them. Secondary languages, field specialties, willingness to travel and continue with formal education, all come into play in this vibrant and promising career pathway.
Other fields such as criminal justice, real estate, health care, human resources and other areas continue to expand and open up for paralegal assistants. All in all, this profession is virtually unlimited with possibilities–especially for those who prepare for the future. As the saying goes, “The future is now.”