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New Mexico Paralegal Career and Salary Guide

Our guide helps those interested in starting a career in the legal field find the answers to the most common questions about how to become a paralegal in New Mexico. The New Mexico Supreme Court has issued rules for practicing paralegals, which include educational, training, and/or work experience that are further described below. Many paralegal jobs in the state require a degree in paralegal studies, such as an associate degree or a certificate. On this page, you will find information on how to become a New Mexico paralegal, certification options in the state, career and salary outlook, and professional resources to help you launch your paralegal career. Get started on your career journey using the directory below.

Table of Contents
How to Become a Paralegal in New Mexico
Paralegal Certification
Paralegal Career and Salary Outlook
Paralegal Resources

How to Become a Paralegal in New Mexico

New Mexico paralegals must meet certain educational, training, and work experience qualifications as outlined by the New Mexico Supreme Court. It mandates that paralegals in the state must meet at least one of these qualifications:

  • Have graduated from an approved paralegal program
  • Have graduated from a 60-credit post-secondary legal assistant program
  • Have a bachelor’s degree in any field plus two years of supervised experience in law
  • Have a law degree and not be disbarred
  • Be certified by a national organization such as the ones listed below and have at least one year of supervised law experience
  • Have a high school diploma and seven years of supervised experience in law

Prospective paralegals in New Mexico will need to take the following steps to start their careers.

1. Earn a degree or certificate in paralegal studies.

New Mexico is one of the few states that sets minimum guidelines for paralegals, most of which include earning a degree or certificate in paralegal studies. To meet the qualifications set forth by the state through education alone, candidates must attend a paralegal program that meets one of the following standards:

  • Any degree approved by the American Bar Association (ABA)
  • An associate or bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies
  • A post-baccalaureate certificate in paralegal studies
  • A 60-credit postsecondary legal assistant program with at least 18 credit hours of general education and 18 credit hours of legal specialty courses

These programs typically include practical training in professional skills and may culminate in a certificate or an associate’s degree, both of which can be found at paralegal schools in New Mexico. As of December 2021, New Mexico has no paralegal programs approved by the ABA.1

2. Gain experience.

Experience is another important step for becoming a paralegal, and internships, job shadowing, and on-the-job training are often offered as part of paralegal education programs. In New Mexico, you can qualify as a paralegal if you have a bachelor’s degree in any subject as long as you gain at least two years of substantive work experience in law under the supervision of an attorney. You can even qualify with only a high school diploma, given that you have at least seven years of substantive law-related experience as defined by the New Mexico Supreme Court.

3. Seek certification, if desired.

If you do not meet the educational requirements to become a paralegal, you can still become one if you are certified by a national organization listed below, as long as you have at least one year of qualifying law experience. Any paralegal may choose to become certified through one of these voluntary examinations. Employers often look favorably upon certified paralegals, so certification may help in your job search.

Paralegal Certification in New Mexico

New Mexico, like most states, does not have certification requirements for paralegals. The state Supreme Court has, however, established rules that define a paralegal as someone who works with a legal entity, performs substantive legal work under a lawyer’s supervision, and meets one or more of the education, training, or work experience qualifications defined above. Although certification is not required, obtaining voluntary paralegal certification can provide networking opportunities and give paralegal candidates a competitive edge in their job search. National organizations offer certification programs to maintain a consistent level of competency within the paralegal profession nationwide. The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA, the Paralegal Association); the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA); and the American Alliance of Paralegals (AAPI) offer voluntary certification programs that are widely accepted by the industry as preparing candidates for professional excellence. Obtaining voluntary certification from these associations is highly recommended and well-respected by paralegal employers.

Prospective New Mexico paralegals should also consult the New Mexico paralegal associations listed below. For more information on national certification options, take a look at our guide Steps to Become a Paralegal.

New Mexico Certification

In order to become a member of the State Bar of New Mexico (SBNM) Paralegal Division, paralegals must meet the state’s definition of “paralegal” described above, be currently employed as a paralegal, and have one of the following qualifications:

  • Be a graduate of a qualified paralegal program
  • Be a graduate of a 60-credit postsecondary legal assistant program
  • Have a bachelor’s degree in any subject with at least two years of law experience
  • Be a graduate of an accredited law school
  • Be certified via a national or state competency examination with at least one year of supervised law experience
  • New Mexico Paralegal Career and Salary Outlook

    The majority of paralegals and legal assistants are employed in private law firms, though corporations, government agencies, banks, and financial institutions also require paralegal support. New Mexico hosts several large law firms, which are concentrated in urban areas. Modrall Sperling is an established business law firm with offices in Albuquerque and Santa Fe. With multiple practice areas, Modrall Sperling requires a large degree of paralegal support, particularly in finance and business-related legal areas. Those interested in business law may find promising New Mexico paralegal jobs with this firm. With offices in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and Farmington, Miller Stratvert provides comprehensive legal services in over 20 practice areas, providing periodic opportunities for new paralegals to join the firm.

    Corporate positions for paralegals and legal assistants are also offered throughout New Mexico. Large New Mexico employers include Los Alamos National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, and Presbyterian Healthcare Services. Government agencies are also known to hire recently graduated paralegals and legal assistants in a variety of roles. These positions may provide a good introduction to the field. LinkedIn is a good research resource where you can search on geography (New Mexico or city-level) for “paralegal” to find networking opportunities and also companies most associated with users identifying as paralegals; companies in New Mexico with the most LinkedIn users as paralegals include:

    • Butt Thornton & Baehr PC
    • HP
    • Los Alamos National Laboratory
    • New Mexico State Personnel Office, Career Services Bureau
    • New Mexico State University
    • Presbyterian Healthcare Services
    • Sandia National Laboratories
    • The University of New Mexico
    • United States Air Force

    For more information about paralegal careers, take a look at our careers page.

    New Mexico Paralegal Salary Information

    Projected Job Growth

    11%

    Paralegals in New Mexico from 2018 to 20282

    In May 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported 1,470 paralegals and legal assistants employed in New Mexico.3 As law firms work to reduce the cost of providing legal services, hiring trends are expected to shift from attorney hiring to greater paralegal and legal assistant hiring. Corporations are also seeking to reduce the expense of legal services and may rely more heavily on internal legal departments rather than more costly outside counsel. Projections Central estimates 12% growth for paralegal and legal assistant jobs nationwide from 2018 to 2028, and job growth for paralegals in New Mexico should be slightly slower, at 11% over the same period.2

    The average annual paralegal salary in New Mexico was reported at $49,110 in 2020.3 Though this is below the national average salary for paralegals at $56,610, part of the disparity is likely due to the lower cost of living in New Mexico.3 In addition, the positive employment growth rate expected over the next few years should result in higher average salaries for qualified paralegals. Paralegals with voluntary certification, paralegal education, and experience may be better positioned for higher salaries. Estimates are based on national data, not school-specific information; data accessed in December 2021.

    New Mexico Paralegal Salary by Metro Area

    Metro AreaNumber Employed4Average Annual Salary4
    Albuquerque1,010$48,760
    Las Cruces120$45,080
    Santa Fe130$50,740

    Paralegal Resources

    Paralegal Associations in New Mexico

    These are volunteer organizations, typically with elected boards, that focus on professional development and networking for a specific geographical location and/or area of law.

    • State Bar of New Mexico (SBNM): Works to promote the paralegal profession through professional development, continuing education, and networking opportunities.

    Additional Resources

    References:
    1. American Bar Association Directory of ABA Approved Paralegal Education Programs: https://www.americanbar.org/groups/paralegals/paralegal-resource-directory/
    2. Projections Central Long Term Occupational Projections: https://projectionscentral.org/Projections/LongTerm
    3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2020 Occupational Employment and Wages, Paralegals and Legal Assistants: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes232011.htm
    4. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2020 Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oessrcma.htm