Becoming a Paralegal in Mississippi - MS

paralegal mississippiThe Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2011 survey found that more than 1,700 people work as paralegals in Mississippi. The greatest concentration of paralegals is in the metropolitan Jackson area, which has the sixth highest concentration of jobs in the nation.

In Mississippi, paralegals and those who employ them must follow Rule 5.3, which defines the role of the legal “paraprofessional.” Under this rule, paralegals must work under the supervision of an attorney who accepts responsibility for their professional conduct. Paralegals must also receive guidance in ethics and confidentiality from their supervising attorneys.

Mississippi does not regulate paralegals, meaning that paralegals are not required to meet state-set standards for training or education. Those wishing to enter the workforce as paralegals may either pursue education in paralegal studies or find employment that provides on-the-job training.

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Is There Paralegal Certification in Mississippi?

Aspiring paralegals are choosing education over on-the-job training in greater numbers. Earning a certificate or a degree can help distinguish entry-level job candidates from their peers as well as prepare paralegals to take one of the national certification exams. There are several educational pathways available to paralegals, including certificates, associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees and master’s degrees. Educational institutions offering such programs may be approved by the American Bar Association (ABA) and may be accredited. These can be important considerations for meeting national certification requirements and to future employers.

Certificate programs offer a certificate of completion to their graduates, who become certificated paralegals. Certificate programs offer focused instruction in paralegal studies and generally do not have many general education requirements. Certificate programs differ in their entry requirements. Some programs do not require any previous higher education. Others are offered only to those who already have a degree in a different field and wish to add coursework in paralegal studies to their skill set.

Mississippi Job Statistics

  • 2011 mean income for paralegals in Mississippi: $39,080 (US Bureau of Labor Statistics)
  • Number of paralegals employed in Mississippi: 1,760
  • December 2011, Mississippi Bar Association ethics opinions states non-lawyers must be screened prior to working on cases to ensure no conflict of interest

Degrees in paralegal studies offer both general education and focused coursework in paralegal studies. Currently, associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees in paralegal studies are available to aspiring paralegals.

National Certification

Paralegals in Mississippi may choose to become certified paralegals in order to be recognized as knowledgeable and competent in their field.   In order to become certified, paralegals must pass one of the exams offered by the three national professional paralegal associations. In Mississippi, paralegals often opt to take the CLA/CP exam as the Mississippi Paralegal Association is affiliated with NALA.

However, there are four exams currently offered:

Requirements for the national exams differ between the three national paralegal organizations. A comparison can be found here.

Paralegal Associations

Since 1980, the Mississippi Paralegal Association (MPA) has worked to increase the utilization of paralegals within the legal community. The MPA promotes the paralegal profession through networks formed with other related organizations and by encouraging its members to seek educational and professional development opportunities. The MPA hosts regular meetings, seminars and workshops. It also assists members in becoming certified and in finding employment. The MPA reports that many paralegals who are active in their organization find that they become more efficient at their jobs.

An affiliate of the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), the MPA offers five levels of membership:

  • Student Membership – Open to any students in good standing who are enrolled in a paralegal program
  • Associate Membership – Open to members of the bar association, educational field, law firms, and paralegal program representatives who endorse the paralegal concept
  • Affiliate Group Membership – Open to paralegal group or school-affiliated paralegal club
  • Inactive Membership – Open to paralegals who do not meet the requirements for active membership
  • Active Membership – Open to any individual who meets one of the following:
    • Passed NALA’s Certified Paralegal (CP)/Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) exam
    • Graduate of an ABA-approved paralegal program and current employment as a paralegal
    • Graduate of an institutionally-approved paralegal studies program that included at least 60 semester credits, and who is also currently employed as a paralegal
    • Graduate of a paralegal program plus at least six months of in-house paralegal training
    • Bachelor’s degree in any field plus six months of in-house paralegal training
    • Three years of law-related experience that includes six months of in-house paralegal training
    • Two years of in-house paralegal training
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Mississippi Legal Professionals Association (MSLPA) – A NALS affiliate, this state-level association promotes these NALS membership and certifications. The MSLPA is made up of the following local chapter organizations:

  • Jackson Legal Professionals Association (JLPA)
  • Gulf Coast Association of Legal Support Professionals
  • Metro Legal Professionals Association (Metro LPA)
  • Pine Belt Legal Professionals (PBLP)
  • South Mississippi Legal Professionals (SMLP)

NALS membership levels for these organizations are:

  • Individual – Open to those engaged in work of a legal nature
  • Associate – Open to those engaged in work of a legal nature such as educators, judges, and attorneys
  • Students – Open to students taking at least nine semester credits from a legal-related program offered by an accredited school
  • Retired – Open to those who have been a NALS-affiliated member for at least five years prior to retirement
  • Life – Open to qualified individual members
  • International – Open to those engaged in work of a legal nature who reside outside the US

Law Firms

Large law firms can employ many paralegals as part of their team.

  • Brunini, Grantham, Grower & Hewes, PLLC
  • Hand Arendall
  • Wise Carter Child & Caraway, P.A.
  • Mitchell McNutt & Sams
  • Baker Donelson
  • Bradley Arant
  • Phelps Dunbar
  • Adams and Reese
  • Balch & Bingham
  • Burr & Forman
  • McGlinchey Stafford

Important Contacts for Paralegals

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