South Carolina Paralegal Career Guide
Our guide is your starting point for learning how to become a paralegal in South Carolina. On this page, you will find South Carolina paralegal salary information, job outlooks, and career-focused resources to answer the most common questions about starting a career in the legal field. Begin by using the easy-to-navigate directory below.
Table of Contents:
- Paralegal Careers
- Job Outlook in South Carolina
- Salary Outlook
- Paralegal Certification
- Career Quick Start Tips – How to Become a Paralegal in South Carolina
- Career Advice from Experienced Legal Professionals
- Additional Paralegal Resources
Though most paralegals and legal assistants find employment in private law firms, corporations, government agencies, and financial institutions are also increasing their dependence on paralegal support. Law firms generally provide the greatest number of paralegal jobs in South Carolina. Additionally, larger firms such as these tend to delegate labor based on practice area, which allows paralegals to specialize in a particular field of law. Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart PC is a large international firm based in Greenville, SC with a particular focus on labor and employment law. The firm hosts 40 offices nationwide, giving paralegals some geographic opportunity as well as supporting strong demand for paralegal staff. Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP is another large law firm practicing in a wide range of legal areas from complex litigation to intellectual property and government relations. Based in Columbia, this firm offers many opportunities for paralegals to specialize in fields of interest and is a good starting point for individuals seeking a big-firm environment.
Mid-sized and smaller law firms are also good places to find paralegal jobs in South Carolina. These smaller offices generally offer a more intimate work setting. Corporations also provide consistent opportunities for paralegals and legal assistants within internal legal departments. South Carolina hosts several large national corporations known to hire paralegals such as Sonoco, SCANA Corporation, and Berkeley Electric Cooperative. Government agencies additionally demand paralegal labor and can provide opportunities for recently graduated paralegals within the state.
Job Outlook in South Carolina
Projected Job Growth
Paralegals in South Carolina from 2016-20261
As law firms seek to reduce to the cost of providing legal services, tasks previously assigned to attorneys may be allocated instead to paralegals, thus expanding the role of paralegals and legal assistants. In May 2017, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 5,350 paralegals and legal assistants employed in South Carolina, a significant increase over the 4,220 paralegals and legal assistants reported in the state in May 2012.2 The Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected 15% employment growth for paralegals and legal assistants nationwide from 2016 to 2026.3 This projection is higher than the average projected growth for all US occupations and the average projected growth for other law-related occupations, estimated at 7% and 11% respectively over the same period.3
These trends are also anticipated in the South Carolina labor market, with 15.7% growth in South Carolina paralegal jobs projected from 2016 to 2026.1 The majority of these positions can be expected to come from the Midlands area of the state, which includes Columbia. Compared to its overall workforce, Columbia has the second-highest concentration of paralegals per thousand jobs in the nation.2
South Carolina Paralegal Salary Outlook
The average South Carolina paralegal salary was reported at $44,590 in May 2017.2 Though this is below the national average of $53,910, candidates may earn a higher paralegal salary in South Carolina working in urban areas.2 For example, paralegals in the Charleston area make an average salary of $50,910.3 The strong base of existing paralegal positions in the state and the positive growth trends suggest that the paralegal employment and salary outlook in South Carolina will continue to be favorable throughout the coming years.
South Carolina Paralegal Salary Info By Metro Area
A quick look at paralegal salary in South Carolina by metro area:
|Metro Area||Number Employed||Average Annual Salary|
|Myrtle Beach-North Myrtle Beach-Conway||310||$37,150|
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2017.4
Paralegal Certification in South Carolina
There are no requirements for South Carolina paralegal certification in order to work as a paralegal in the state. Paralegals and legal assistants may perform law-related tasks under the direct supervision of a qualified attorney. As there are no South Carolina paralegal certification or training requirements, paralegals may complete on-site or on-the-job training. However, South Carolina paralegal employers demonstrate a preference for paralegals who have completed formal paralegal education.
Currently, the American Bar Association (ABA) has approved nine South Carolina paralegal programs. These programs aim to equip students with the practical skills and legal knowledge to aid lawyers in a variety of legal settings. South Carolina paralegal programs that do not have ABA approval are also offered throughout the state. Upon completion of a paralegal degree program, prospective paralegals are strongly encouraged to seek national certification. The National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) and the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) offer voluntary certification programs for paralegals which are designed to demonstrate a uniform degree of professional competency.
South Carolina Certification
Though South Carolina paralegal certification is not mandated by state law, paralegal employers tend to prefer candidates who have attended one of the paralegal schools in South Carolina and who have earned professional credentials. The South Carolina State Bar awards a form of voluntary certification, SC Certified Paralegal, for paralegals working in South Carolina who have achieved the Certified Legal Assistant (CLA)/Certified Paralegal (CP) designation from NALA, the Professional Paralegal (PP) designation from NALS, The Association for Legal Professionals, or the PACE-Registered Paralegal (RP) designation from the NFPA. You can read more about the credentials required to become an SC Certified Paralegal through the South Carolina Bar.
You can get a better idea of what South Carolina paralegal jobs tend to require on our jobs board. Paralegals and legal assistants in South Carolina may also wish to join one of the South Carolina paralegal associations listed below. These in-state organizations work to support the expansion of the paralegal profession by offering education and career guidance.
Career Quick Start Tips — How to Become a Paralegal in South Carolina
There are a number of paths prospective paralegals can follow to begin legal careers in South Carolina. Most South Carolina paralegals possess a combination of education and experience. Although some firms have training programs in place for less experienced paralegals, applicants are still encouraged to seek formal paralegal education and national certification. You can learn more about paralegal schools in South Carolina on our state schools page. You can also learn more about voluntary national certification with our guide Steps to Become a Paralegal.
Career Advice from Experienced Legal Professionals
Paralegal careers can be personally rewarding as paralegals are frequently offered the chance to make a difference for their firms and for their firms’ clients. To succeed in the paralegal field, you must have the right resources available at the right time. The following South Carolina paralegal career resources can help you get off to the right start.
South Carolina Paralegal Career Books
- A Guide to South Carolina Legal Research and Citation – Now in its 3rd edition, this text by Paula Gail Benson provides paralegals and other legal professionals with a comprehensive yet concise guide to legal research in South Carolina. Divided into two parts, beginning with legal research then moving to legal citation, this book covers all major sources of law and citation forms, focusing on those unique to South Carolina.
- The US Notary Law Primer – Paralegals frequently assume notary duties in the course of their day-to-day work. This overview of notary law in the US provides those performing notarial acts with a quick reference for rules and procedures. Also included are helpful tips that notaries and paralegals can use in practice.
- Marital Litigation in South Carolina: Substantive Law – Though titled with a focus on marital law, this text covers all aspects of family law in South Carolina. The book includes analysis on legislative changes and completed cases. The text is now in its 4th edition.
- Guide to South Carolina Criminal Law and Procedure – Written around the structure of the South Carolina criminal justice system, this text is a helpful guide to understanding South Carolina criminal law and the procedures for interested parties, from police agencies to the courts. Jurisdiction and sentencing guidelines are also discussed. This is a particularly useful reference text for litigation and criminal defense paralegals.
Paralegal Job Search Websites for South Carolina
- South Carolina Bar – The South Carolina Bar maintains a Career Center that frequently posts paralegal jobs in South Carolina.
- Richland County Bar Association – The Richland County Bar Association also posts South Carolina paralegal jobs, with a focus on the Columbia area.
- Paralegal411 jobs board – For additional paralegal jobs in South Carolina, be sure to visit our jobs board.
- Judicial.State.SC.us – The South Carolina Judicial Department maintains a home site for all courts in the South Carolina state system. From this portal visitors can access the South Carolina Supreme Court, Trial Courts, and Court of Appeals, including e-filing systems and court calendars. The site also includes research tools such as recent opinions, past case histories, and court forms.
- South Carolina Supreme Court Library – Hosting over 40,000 print volumes, the South Carolina Supreme Court Library collections focus on sources of South Carolina law. The library is open to legal professionals and the general public and is located in Columbia.
- Coleman Karesh Law Library at the University of South Carolina School of Law – Also in Columbia, the Coleman Karesh Law Library is the largest law library in the state of South Carolina, with over 500,000 volumes. In addition to sources of South Carolina law, the collections contain research materials for US, foreign, international, and comparative law. Bar members may apply for overnight checkout privileges for single volumes.
- Charleston Association of Legal Assistants – Founded in 1982, the Charleston Association of Legal Assistants seeks to promote the paralegal profession. An affiliate of the National Association of Legal Assistants, Inc. (NALA), the organization offers member benefits such as professional networking, continuing education seminars, and community service events. Annual dues are $40 for full members, $50 for associate members, and $30 for student members.
- Palmetto Paralegal Association – Since 1988 the Palmetto Paralegal Association has been serving Columbia-area paralegals and legal professionals. Members may participate in monthly meetings and continuing education opportunities as well as networking events. Annual dues are $85 for voting members and $30 for student members.
- South Carolina Upstate Paralegal Association – An affiliate of the National Association of Legal Assistants, Inc. (NALA), the South Carolina Upstate Paralegal Association holds regular monthly meetings and biannual seminars that focus on professional development. The association also promotes participation in pro bono service to the public. Annual dues are $75 for active and associate members and $15 for student members.
South Carolina Court Info
Law Libraries in South Carolina
Paralegal Associations in South Carolina
1. Projections Central: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2017 Occupational Employment and Wages, Paralegals and Legal Assistants: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes232011.htm
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Paralegals and Legal Assistants: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/Legal/Paralegals-and-legal-assistants.htm#tab-5
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2017 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, South Carolina: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_sc.htm
5. American Bar Association: https://www.americanbar.org/groups/paralegals/paralegal-resource-directory/