The Tennessee Paralegal Career Low Down

Paralegal Education in Tennessee

Flag of Tennessee

Flag of Tennessee (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2011 job survey, Tennessee employed over 4,400 paralegals and legal assistants with the concentration of those in major metropolitan areas such as Memphis, Knoxville and Nashville. As the demand for educated paralegals rises, nearly 75% of employers were reported as having paid for further paralegal education and almost as many were reported to pay annual Tennessee Paralegal Association dues for their employees (where applicable).

Salaries

In USD as of Mar 12, 2013 (source: indeed.com) 30k 60k 90k
Paralegal in Tennessee $45,000
 

Spotlight School

Educational Requirements in Tennessee

Like most states in the nation, Tennessee holds to no strict educational guidelines; anyone can be a paralegal as long as they are employed in that capacity.  However, the field is plump with many paraprofessionals vying for the same jobs. Generally speaking, most employers will favor the potential hire who has the greatest skills set, experience, schooling or all three. While a paralegal can be trained on the job -and perhaps a very small firm might desire that so training is via a specific style- the best paying jobs with the best benefits and highest pay goes to those who have invested time in formal schooling.

There are other ways to stand amongst a sea of hopefuls, too. While a degree (Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s or Juris Doctorate) or a Post-Baccalaureate certification will allow a paralegal to brand herself a certificated paralegal, it’s not the same thing as a Certified Paralegal. The title Certified Paralegal comes from taking and passing an exam sponsored by one of three national associations. There are four possibly exams to take, each with their own criteria so it’s prudent and necessary to investigate the prerequisites. In some cases a paralegal can use experience and the sworn statement of an attorney to fulfill the test needs without further education. Most exams will require some schooling and training. The four exams and the three associations are the CLA/CP sponsored by the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA); the PACE and the PCC, both sponsored by the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA); and the PP sponsored by the Association for Legal Professionals (NALS). There is a fee for each sitting, so be prepared for those as well.

Where to Gain Schooling

Cannon County Court House (2006 Version)

Cannon County Court House (Photo credit: SeeMidTN.com)

Always large on justice and legal professions, Tennessee claims a number of institutes that have the distinction of being ABA approved. The American Bar Association is an entity with very strict educational standards and rigorous demands of paralegal programs. It is not the same as being accredited, which comes from a source, either private, regional, or national such as the Board of Education. ABA approval isn’t always required for a program or certificate to be valid, but it certainly looks good and having both assures an impressive resume and that the employer is getting the best available. When in doubt, seek accreditation and ABA approval to cover all bases. There are ten ABA approved schools in Tennessee:

Chattanooga State Community College in Chattanooga is a public, 2 year school offering an AAS (Associate of Applied Science) in Paralegal Studies. It is designed to last 61 semester hours and seamlessly transfer to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga for completion as a Bachelor of Science degree; it’s also offered as a night course. The AAS can stand on its own, as well if further study is not immediately desired. Internships are elective.

Kaplan Career Institute (f/k/a Southeastern Career College) in Nashville is a proprietary school that offers both an Associate of Applied Science (77 week-long course), and a General Practice Paralegal Certificate (roughly 52 weeks long). Practical skills are stressed over theory and internships are required for both degree and certificate.

Pellissippi State Community College (f/k/a Pellissippi State Technical Community College) is located in Knoxville and is a public, 2 year school offering an AAS in Paralegal Studies. Classes are all taught by practicing attorneys and internships are required.

Roane State Community College in Harriman offers a 2-year AAS degree in Paralegal Studies. 

South College in Knoxville offering an Associate in Science degree (generally 2 year), a Bachelor of Science degree (usually 4 year), and a Certificate (generally runs one year but varies by school and program). Internships are mandatory for completion.

Southwest Tennessee Community College in Memphis is a public, 2-year school extending an AAS degree in Paralegal Studies. While this course usually takes 2 years to complete, prior schooling may fast track the process. This school has an exceptionally high employment rate. Internships are mandatory and have a few requisites that must be met first.

University of Memphis in Memphis is a public, 4-year school offering a Bachelor of Professional Studies degree in Paralegal Studies. Internship is required for course completion.

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in Chattanooga is a public, 4-year school offering a BA in Paralegal Studies with mandatory internships.

Volunteer State Community College in Gallatin is a public, 2-year school offering an AS and an AAS in Paralegal Studies. It takes a minimum of 60 semester hours to finish the course and internships are elective.

Walters State Community College in Morristown is a public 2-year institute offering an AAS with elective internships.

Firms of Interest

While there are many entities that hire paralegals and many fields of specialty to enter such as divorce paralegal, environmental paralegal and immigration paralegal with potential workplaces like corporations, government agencies and banks, the most visible employers will those at large firms. Below is a truncated list of firms in Tennessee known for hiring entry-level legal assistants and often.

Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC
1800 Republic Centre
633 Chestnut Street
Chattanooga, TN 37450
T: 423.756.2010
F: 423.756.3447

One Courthouse Square
Huntsville, TN 37756
T: 423.663.9148
F: 423.663.2076

100 Med Tech Parkway
Suite 200
Johnson City, TN 37604
T: 423.928.0181
F: 423.928.5694

265 Brookview Centre Way
Suite 600
Knoxville, TN 37919
T: 865.549.7000
F: 865.525.8569

First Tennessee Building
165 Madison Avenue
Suite 2000
Memphis, TN 38103
T: 901.526.2000
F: 901.577.2303

6060 Poplar Avenue
Suite 440
Memphis, TN 38119
T: 901.579.3100

Baker Donelson Center
Suite 800
211 Commerce Street
Nashville, TN 37201
T: 615.726.5600
F: 615.726.0464

Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C.
International Place, Tower II
6410 Poplar Avenue
Suite 300
Memphis, TN 38119
T:901-767-6160
F:901-767-7411

SunTrust Plaza
401 Commerce Street
Suite 1200
Nashville, TN 37219
T: 615-254-1900
F: 615-254-1908

Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs, LLP
The Renaissance Center
1715 Aaron Brenner Drive
Suite 800
Memphis TN 38120
T: 901-537-1000
F: 901-537-1010

2525 West End Avenue
Suite 1500
Nashville TN 37203
P: 615-244-0020
F: 615-256-1726

Important Resources for Paralegals

Paralegal Schools in Tennessee

Campus: Online

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Programs:

  • Associate of Applied Science in Criminal Justice and Criminology 
  • Associate of Applied Science In Public Safety and Security 
  • BS in Corrections
  • Associate of Applied Science in Legal Support and Services
  • AAS in Criminal Justice

Campus: Knoxville, TN

At South College we welcome students from all different stages of life and career.  Whether you are pursing a degree for the first time, going back to school as an adult learner, or furthering your career with an advanced degree, our faculty and staff will partner with you to give your dreams direction.

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  • AS Investigation & Security
  • CERT Investigation & Security
  • CERT Investigation and Security
  • BS Criminal Justice
  • MS Criminal Justice

Campus: Online

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Argosy University offers doctoral, master's, and bachelor's degree programs to students through its eight colleges:  College of Behavioral Sciences, Graduate School of Business and Management, College of Education,  College of Health Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences, College of Creative Arts and Design, College of Clinical Psychology and Western State College of Law at Argosy University as well as certificate programs in many areas.

Programs:

  • Criminal Justice (BS) (Online)

Campus: Chattanooga, TN

Miller-Motte Technical College (MMTC) has a history of helping students succeed through hands-on education and career training. Our faculty and staff work to ensure that when you've completed your program, you're truly ready to begin your career.

Programs:

  • Criminal Justice - Associate of Applied Science

Campus: Nashville, TN

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Programs:

  • Paralegal Studies - Associates
  • General Practice Paralegal