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Tennessee Paralegal Career Guide

Our career guide helps those interested in legal careers learn how to become a paralegal in Tennessee with information on Tennessee paralegal salary, job outlook, and career resources. Find the answers to your questions about how to become a paralegal in Tennessee with the directory below.

Table of Contents:
Paralegal Careers
Job Outlook in Tennessee
Salary Outlook
Salary by Metro Area
Paralegal Certification
Certification in Tennessee
Career Quick Start Tips – How to Become a Paralegal in Tennessee
Additional Paralegal Resources
Tennessee Paralegal Career Books
Paralegal Job Search Websites
Tennessee State Court Info
Law Libraries in Tennessee
Paralegal Associations in Tennessee

Paralegal Careers

Law firms continue to be the main employers of paralegals and legal assistants nationwide, though 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 and Memphis, Waller, Lansden, Dortch & Davis is one of the oldest and most established firms in Tennessee. With a variety of legal practice areas and a committed team of attorneys and paralegals, Waller may provide good opportunities for hard-working paralegals interested in joining a large firm environment. With offices in Knoxville, Memphis, and Nashville, Bass, Berry & Sims PLC is another premier firm based in Tennessee, representing over 40 publicly traded companies. With an innovative mindset and competitive professional compensation, Bass PLC may present desirable job opportunities for paralegals.

Corporations can also provide promising positions for new paralegals. Tennessee is host to major corporations such as FedEx, HCA Holdings, Dollar General, AutoZone, and Vanguard Health Systems. 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.

Job Outlook in Tennessee

Projected Job Growth

33%

Paralegals in Tennessee from 2012-20221

As private law firms seek to lower expenses, paralegal hiring trends are expected to increase as tasks previously delegated to attorneys may be allocated to less expensive support staff. In May 2014, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics projected 17% employment growth for paralegals and legal assistants nationwide from 2012 to 2022.2 This projected growth trend outstrips the both the average growth projection across all US occupations at 11% and the average growth projection across all law-related occupations at 11%.2 Paralegals in Tennessee have even stronger career prospects as the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development has projected a 33% increase in Tennessee paralegal jobs over the same 2012 to 2022 period.1 This equates to an annual job growth rate of 4.1%, with 240 annual openings projected due to growth and a further 80 annual openings projected due to replacements.1

Tennessee Paralegal Salary Outlook

In May of 2014, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that there were 4,300 paralegals and legal assistants employed throughout Tennessee.3 The average paralegal salary in Tennessee was reported at $49,070.3 This represents a noticeable increase over the average Tennessee paralegal salary reported in 2012, which was $46,680.3 Generally, large law firms in urban areas offer the highest average paralegal compensation. For example, greater Nashville-area paralegals earn the highest paralegal salaries in Tennessee, reported at an average of $54,700.4 Overall, the increasing paralegal salary in Tennessee and the favorable projected employment trends suggest that paralegals and legal assistants in the state will encounter a positive job market with competitive salary prospects.

Tennessee Paralegal Salary Info By Metro Area

A quick look at Tennessee paralegal salary by metro area:

Metro AreaNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Chattanooga500$47,080
Jackson100$32,440
Knoxville470$47,060
Memphis680$44,570
Nashville1,950$54,700

Data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2014.

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. Tennessee state law does not currently regulate the education or employment of paralegals and legal assistants, meaning that paralegals may be trained exclusively through on-the-job training. However, most open Tennessee paralegal jobs give precedence to candidates with formal paralegal education. As of 2015, the American Bar Association (ABA) has approved nine Tennessee paralegal programs. These programs meet or exceed the ABA paralegal education standards and are widely respected for this accreditation. There are also numerous paralegal schools in Tennessee that are not ABA-approved offering respected education programs. Paralegals who have completed paralegal specific education, training, or work experience are also encouraged to seek national certification through an organization such as the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA), or the National Association for Legal Professionals (NALS).

Tennessee Certification

Since there are no state-level mandates for Tennessee paralegal certification, prospective paralegals may follow a number of career paths. The majority of paralegals have completed formal education at one of the numerous paralegal schools in Tennessee. Most Tennessee paralegal programs include basic instruction in professional and paralegal skills, as well as an introduction to substantive and theoretical legal areas. After completing an education, professionals can earn voluntary paralegal certification. The major national paralegal associations offer voluntary certification programs designed to maintain a uniform level of professional competency for paralegals and legal assistants nationwide.

Career Quick Start Tips — How to Become a Paralegal in Tennessee

Most Tennessee paralegals possess a combination of education and experience, which may include on-the-job training or internship experience earned while attending a Tennessee paralegal program. Paralegals may also climb the career ladder by starting work 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. Newly-trained paralegals are encouraged to refer to local Tennessee paralegal associations, which are listed below, for guidance and updates regarding Tennessee paralegal certification. For further information on typical requirements for paralegal jobs in Tennessee, visit our jobs board. You can also learn more about how to become a paralegal, including information on national certification, with our guide Steps to Become a Paralegal.

Paralegal Resources

As a paralegal, you support the success of your firm and can make a difference in the lives of your firm’s clients. The success of your career is partly driven by having the right resources at the right time. These resources for Tennessee paralegals can help you gain a competitive edge.

Tennessee Paralegal Career Books

  • The Paralegal Professional – This book for beginning paralegals focuses on analytical and procedural skills in the legal arena. Ethical and professional advice is distributed throughout the text, which is organized around chapters based on areas of law. In addition to written case studies, the book also includes video case studies for visual learners.
  • Ethics & Professional Responsibility for Paralegals – A strong understanding of legal ethics is essential for all legal professionals. This text focuses on ethics for paralegals in practice as well as hypothetical and theoretical ethical situations.
  • Tennessee Legal Research – Written specifically for legal research strategies for Tennessee, this professional text also covers research in federal law and in other states. The book is organized around a process approach to legal research covering primary and secondary sources of law. Also included is an appendix of legal citation forms for Tennessee court rules, the Bluebook, and the Association of Legal Writing Directors.
  • Tennessee Law of Evidence – Originally published in 1974 and now in its sixth edition, this comprehensive overview of principal cases establishing the law of evidence in Tennessee provides helpful analysis and commentary throughout with footnotes for further research. Included are laws of evidence based on statutory, rule, and judicial changes. The text can be purchased in e-book format or as a hardcover.

Paralegal Job Search Websites for Tennessee

Tennessee Court Info

  • TNCourts.gov – The administrative office of the Tennessee judiciary maintains this site, from which visitors can access links and information for all courts within the Tennessee courts system. Also provided are forms and publications, access to court news and updates, and case search functions.

Law Libraries in Tennessee

  • Tennessee State Law Library and Archives – The Tennessee State Library and Archives (TSLA) collection focuses on historic and current sources of Tennessee law, though a broad collection of national and international titles are also included in the collection. The electronic library includes access to over 40 legal databases. The print collection is spread across the state public library locations, which can be viewed on the Public Library Directory.
  • University of Tennessee Knoxville Joel A. Katz Law Library – Housed within the College of Law at the University of Tennessee Knoxville, this law library is open to legal professionals and the general public for legal research. The library hosts a world-class collection of print and electronic resources, including access to electronic legal databases.

Paralegal Associations in Tennessee

  • Greater Memphis Paralegal Alliance – An affiliate of the National Association of Legal Assistants, Inc. (NALA), the Greater Memphis Paralegal Alliance was formed in 1993 to promote the paralegal profession. Membership benefits include access to a jobs bank, continuing education opportunities, and ongoing networking events. Membership dues are based on monthly luncheon meeting attendance.
  • Memphis Paralegal Association – Founded in 1982, this paralegal association serves Memphis, Shelby County, and the surrounding tri-state area. An affiliate of the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA), this organization promotes professional development and communication for paralegals and other legal professionals.
  • Middle Tennessee Paralegal Association – Since 1984, the Middle Tennessee Paralegal Association has been supporting paralegal education and professional advancement. Based in Nashville and serving the surrounding areas, this association holds monthly meetings and regular programs of interest to paralegals. Annual dues are $85 for individual voting members and $40 for student members.
  • Smoky Mountain Paralegal Association – The Smoky Mountain Paralegal Association is an affiliate of the National Association of Legal Assistants, Inc. (NALA) and has been serving paralegals in the Smoky Mountain area since 2005. The organization maintains an active continuing education schedule with meetings held throughout each month. Annual dues are $60 for active and associate members and $25 for student members.
  • Tennessee Paralegal Association – Serving paralegals statewide, the Tennessee Paralegal Association is divided into three chapters: Southeast, Central, and East Tennessee. This association is an affiliate of the National Association of Legal Assistants, Inc. (NALA) and promotes continuing education opportunities as well as professional networking for its membership. Annual dues are $80 for active members and $40 for students.

References:
1. Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development: https://www.tn.gov/workforce
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 2014 Occupational Outlook Handbook, Paralegals and Legal Assistants: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/Legal/Paralegals-and-legal-assistants.htm#tab-6
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates,
Tennessee: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_tn.htm
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 Occupational Employment and Wages, Paralegals and Legal Assistants: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes232011.htm
5. American Bar Association Standing Committee on Paralegals: https://www.americanbar.org/groups/paralegals/paralegal-resource-directory/