Tennessee Paralegal Career and Salary Guide
Our career guide helps those interested in legal careers learn how to become a paralegal in Tennessee with information on paralegal salaries, job outlook, and career resources in the state. You will also find more about paralegal education and certification as well as professional associations and resources in the state. While Tennessee does not regulate the profession, most legal assistants and paralegals in the state get a degree in paralegal studies, commonly an associate degree or a certificate. Find the answers to your questions about how to become a paralegal in Tennessee using the directory below.
Table of Contents
- How to Become a Paralegal in Tennessee
- Paralegal Certification
- Paralegal Career and Salary Outlook
- Paralegal Resources
How to Become a Paralegal in Tennessee
Most Tennessee paralegals possess a combination of education and experience, which may include a paralegal studies degree or certificate, on-the-job training, or internship experience earned while attending a Tennessee paralegal program. Paralegals may also start out in the legal field by working as document preparers or legal secretaries. Formal education through a paralegal degree or certificate program paired with voluntary certification through a recognized paralegal association is a competitive route to advancement.
1. Earn a degree or certificate in paralegal studies.
Associate’s degrees, bachelor’s degrees, and certificates in paralegal studies are offered at numerous schools in Tennessee. Paralegal education helps new entrants to the legal field gain useful knowledge of the legal system and build the skills necessary to succeed in this detail-oriented field. There are seven paralegal schools approved by the American Bar Association (ABA) in Tennessee.1
2. Gain experience.
Work experience gained through an internship, externship, or academic credit can help new paralegals build professional networks and practice their skills. Not all programs offer this type of experience, but those who have the option should take advantage if possible. Making connections with local law firms can be a useful step to finding a full-time position once your paralegal education program is complete.
3. Seek certification, if desired.
In addition to education and experience, voluntary certification through a national organization can help you further stand out from other applicants as it shows you have met specific paralegal education and experience requirements.
Paralegal Certification in Tennessee
Paralegals and legal assistants are classified as legal paraprofessionals in Tennessee. Under this designation, paralegals and legal assistants are permitted to perform law-related tasks under the direct supervision of a qualified attorney. Certification is not required to become a paralegal in the state. However, interested qualified individuals can apply for voluntary certification, if desired. A paralegal studies degree or certificate is required for voluntary certification through the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA, the Paralegal Association); the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA); and the American Alliance of Paralegals, Inc. (AAPI). For more information on how to earn voluntary paralegal certification, see our Steps to Become a Paralegal guide.
Tennessee Paralegal Career and Salary Outlook
Law firms continue to be the main employers of paralegals and legal assistants in Tennessee, although private corporations, government agencies, insurance groups, and financial institutions also require paralegal support. Tennessee’s urban areas host numerous regional, national, and international law firms. With offices in Nashville, Chattanooga, and Memphis, Waller, Lansden, Dortch & Davis is one of the oldest and most established firms in Tennessee. With a variety of legal practice areas, Waller may provide diverse opportunities for paralegals interested in a large firm environment. With offices in Knoxville, Memphis, and Nashville, Bass, Berry & Sims PLC is another premier firm based in Tennessee, specializing in over 15 different areas of law such as healthcare, compliance, and labor.
Corporations can also provide promising positions for new paralegals. Tennessee is host to major corporations such as FedEx, HCA Holdings, Dollar General, AutoZone, and Amazon. The internal legal departments at corporations such as these require a great deal of paralegal support and may provide paralegals with a slightly different professional experience than that offered in typical law firm environments. Paralegals and legal assistants are also encouraged to look into local government agencies, insurance groups, and banks for additional opportunities.
LinkedIn is a good research resource where you can search on geography (Tennessee or city-level) for “paralegal” to find networking opportunities and also companies most associated with users identifying as paralegals; companies in Tennessee with the most LinkedIn users as paralegals include:
- Baker Donelson
- Bass, Berry & Sims
- State of Tennessee
- US Army
For more information about paralegal careers, take a look at our careers page.
Tennessee Paralegal Salary Information
Projected Job Growth
Paralegals in Tennessee from 2018-20282
In May of 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimated that there were 5,770 paralegals and legal assistants employed throughout Tennessee with over one third (2,060) working in the Nashville metro area.2,4 As private law firms seek to lower expenses, paralegal hiring trends may increase as tasks previously delegated to attorneys may be allocated to less expensive support staff. Projections Central reported an estimate of 15% employment growth for paralegals and legal assistants in Tennessee from 2018 to 2028, compared to 12% nationwide during the same period.2
The average paralegal salary in Tennessee was reported at $48,990 in 2020.3 However, paralegals working in urban areas typically earn higher average paralegal compensation. For example, greater Kingsport-area paralegals earn the highest paralegal salaries in Tennessee ($57,860), which is above the national average for the profession of $56,610.4,3 Paralegals with professional experience, education, or voluntary certification may be able to command higher salaries. Overall, the favorable projected employment trends in Tennessee suggest that paralegals and legal assistants in the state will encounter a positive job market with the potential for competitive salary prospects. Estimates are based on national data, not school-specific information; data accessed in December 2021.
Tennessee Paralegal Salary by Metro Area
|Average Annual Salary4
Paralegal Associations in Tennessee
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.
- Greater Memphis Paralegal Alliance (GMPA): Formed in 1993 to promote the paralegal profession in Memphis and offers a jobs bank, continuing education opportunities, and ongoing networking events.
- Smoky Mountain Paralegal Association (SMPA): Serves paralegals in the Smoky Mountain area through an active continuing education schedule with meetings held throughout each month.
- Tennessee Paralegal Association (TPA): Serving paralegals statewide via three chapters (Southeast, Central, and East Tennessee) with continuing education opportunities as well as professional networking for its members.
- Paralegal411 Jobs Board: To search for Tennessee paralegal jobs, try our jobs board.
- Tennessee State Courts: Provides access to links and information for all courts within the Tennessee courts system as well as forms and publications, access to court news and updates, and case search functions.
- Tennessee State Law Library and Archives: Maintains historic and current sources of Tennessee law though a broad collection of national and international titles as well as access to over 40 legal databases.
- University of Tennessee Knoxville Joel A. Katz Law Library: Provides law library resources that are open to legal professionals and the general public for legal research including a world-class collection of print and electronic resources as well as access to electronic legal databases.
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