South Dakota Paralegal Career and Salary Guide
This guide to paralegal careers in South Dakota is designed to help you start your career as a paralegal or legal assistant. South Dakota is one of the few states that has mandatory education and experience requirements for legal assistants and paralegals. On this page, you will find answers to the most common questions about how to become a paralegal in South Dakota, including certification options, salary information, job outlook, and career resources. Begin your journey to a paralegal career using the directory below.
Table of Contents
- How to Become a Paralegal in South Dakota
- Paralegal Certification
- Paralegal Career and Salary Outlook
- Paralegal Resources
How to Become a Paralegal in South Dakota
South Dakota has set forth mandatory minimum requirements for paralegals and legal assistants. According to South Dakota Supreme Court Rule 97-25, paralegals and legal assistants must hold a high school diploma or equivalent and meet one the following requirements:
- Have passed the Certified Paralegal (CP) exam from the National Associations of Legal Assistants (NALA)
- Be a graduate of an ABA-approved legal assistant program
- Be a graduate of a legal assistant program that is institutionally accredited but not ABA-approved and that requires equal to or more than 60 semester hours of classroom study
- Be a graduate from any legal assistant program and have completed at least six months of in-house training as a legal assistant
- Hold a bachelor’s degree in any field have completed at least six months of in-house training as a legal assistant
- Have at least three years of supervised, law-related experience, including at least six months of in-house training as a legal assistant
- Have at least two years of in-house training as a legal assistant
In addition to meeting these educational and experiential requirements, seeking voluntary certification through a national or state organization following graduation from a South Dakota paralegal program can give paralegal candidates a competitive edge in the job market.
1. Earn a degree or certificate in paralegal studies.
One way paralegals in South Dakota can meet the mandatory requirements listed above is to obtain a formal education in legal studies. Completing a legal assistant program alone may qualify candidates to become paralegals if it is ABA-approved or requires at least 60 semester hours of classroom study. There are a couple of paralegal schools in South Dakota offering bachelor’s degrees in paralegal studies, and numerous others, including certificates and associate’s degrees, in neighboring states. Currently, none of the programs in South Dakota are approved by the American Bar Association (ABA).1
2. Gain experience.
Through degree or certificate programs, paralegal candidates are typically offered invaluable on-the-job experience through internships or job shadowing opportunities. This type of real-world experience can help paralegals in their job searches and meet the requirements set forth by the State Supreme Court. As noted above, paralegals can meet state requirements with a combination of education and experience. Paralegals may also qualify through experience alone by having three years of supervised, law-related experience including six months of in-house training or with two years of in-house training as a legal assistant.
3. Seek certification, if desired.
Although obtaining certification through a national association is voluntary, doing so can demonstrate to potential employers a paralegal’s dedication and commitment to the profession. One way South Dakota paralegals can meet the state’s mandatory requirements is to pass the CLA exam from NALA. You can read more about NALA and other a href=”#certification”>national certification options below.
Paralegal Certification in South Dakota
In South Dakota, paralegals are classified as legal paraprofessionals and are permitted to perform substantive legal tasks under a supervising attorney. Currently, South Dakota paralegal certification is not required, but the state does regulate the education and training of paralegals. Many paralegals choose to seek certification through a national organization such as the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA, the Paralegal Association), the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA), or the National Association for Legal Professionals (NALS). All of these organizations offer voluntary certification programs including examinations designed to raise the national level of competency and professionalism in the paralegal occupation. These certification exams have various education and work experience prerequisites that should be consulted before applying. Additionally, passing the Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) exam of the National Associations of Legal Assistants (NALA) is one way paralegals can meet the state’s minimum requirements.
Prospective paralegals are also encouraged to seek guidance from the South Dakota paralegal associations listed below. For more information on national certification options, take a look at our guide Steps to Become a Paralegal.
South Dakota Paralegal Career and Salary Outlook
Paralegals and legal assistants may find employment in a variety of legal settings. Large law firms generally require the greatest degree of paralegal support while offering the most competitive benefits. Paralegals employed in large firms are often assigned to work in specific legal areas, giving individuals the opportunity to specialize in a particular area of law. Boyce Law Firm was Sioux Falls’s first law office established in 1878. Its practice areas include nearly every aspect of law including litigation, trust, real estate, and malpractice. The Bangs McCullen Law Firm is a regional firm with offices in Rapid City and Sioux Falls, with practice areas that include business law, criminal law, estate planning, and litigation. Davenport Evans Hurwitz & Smith is another of South Dakota’s oldest and largest firms. Based in Sioux Falls, Davenport Evans practices in virtually every area of law. Throughout the state, other mid-sized and small firms may also offer good opportunities for paralegals. Smaller firms may supply a more general introduction to the field and foster a more intimate work environment.
Though private law firms continue to post the majority of paralegal jobs in South Dakota, corporations are steadily increasing their dependence on paralegal support staff. Major companies in South Dakota include Citi, First Premier Bank, Sanford Health, Monument Health, Black Hills Corporation, and Wellmark. These corporations may offer paralegals the opportunity to explore areas such as liability law, business law, and corporate litigation. Government agencies, banks, and insurance groups throughout the area may also provide South Dakota paralegal jobs.
LinkedIn is a good research resource where you can search on geography (South Dakota or city-level) for “paralegal” to find networking opportunities and also companies most associated with users identifying as paralegals; companies in South Dakota with the most LinkedIn users as paralegals include:
- Bangs McCullen Law Firm
- Boyce Law Firm, LLP
- Davenport, Evans, Hurwitz & Smith Law Firm
- First Premier Bank
- Lynn, Jackson, Shultz & Lebrun, P.C.
- Sanford Health
- Schwegman Lundberg & Woessner, P.A.
- State of South Dakota
For more information about paralegal careers, take a look at our careers page.
South Dakota Paralegal Salary Information
Projected Job Growth
Paralegals in South Dakota from 2018-20282
In May 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported 450 paralegals and legal assistants employed throughout South Dakota.3 As law firms attempt to minimize the expense of providing legal services, paralegal and legal assistant employment levels are expected to rise, as tasks previously allocated to attorneys shift to less expensive paralegal labor. Corporations may follow a similar trend by increasing reliance on internal legal departments rather than referring to more expensive outside counsel. Based on these trends, Projections Central projects 19.6% growth for paralegal jobs in South Dakota from 2018 to 2028, higher than the 12% projection for paralegal jobs nationwide for the same time period.2
The average paralegal salary in South Dakota was reported at $50,410 in 2020.3 Though this wage is lower than the national mean wage for paralegals and legal assistants of $56,610, it is comparable to the average paralegal wage in nearby states such as North Dakota, where the mean wage is $47,290.3 The nationwide expansion of the paralegal field suggests that South Dakota paralegal jobs will be available for paralegal graduates in a variety of work settings, particularly in urban areas. Increased reliance on paralegal labor may also serve to raise the average paralegal salary in South Dakota. 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 January 2022.
South Dakota Paralegal Salary by Metro Area
|Metro Area||Number Employed4||Average Annual Salary4|
Paralegal Associations in South Dakota
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.
- Black Hills Legal Professional Association (BHLPA): Serves legal professionals throughout western South Dakota with regular monthly meetings, job postings, networking opportunities, continuing education opportunities, and social events.
- Rocky Mountain Paralegal Association (RMPA): Promotes the paralegal profession through job postings, professional seminars, and networking events in the Rocky Mountain States including Colorado, New Mexico, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming.
- South Dakota Paralegal Association (SDPA): Seeks to promote the paralegal profession in South Dakota through networking opportunities, professional development, and regular membership meetings.
- Paralegal411 Jobs Board: To search for paralegal openings in South Dakota, visit our jobs board.
- South Dakota Unified Judicial System: Provides access to all courts within the state with links to court rules, forms, legal research sources, and legal news, as well as e-filing systems.
- University of South Dakota Law Library: Serves as the legal resource center for the University of South Dakota Law School, the judiciary, and the State Bar, hosting over 200,000 print volumes and allowing registered state attorneys to borrow circulating materials.
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