Become a Paralegal in Tennessee

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Tennessee is big on business, and wherever there’s big business there’s a need for legal services. Today’s legal firms and corporate legal departments look for cost-effective support services and paralegals are often their answer. Nine Tennessee companies, including Community Health Systems and AutoZone, made the 2013 Fortune 500 list; whether through law firms or in-house counsel, companies like these need legal services.

*Whether you’re looking to earn an undergraduate degree in preparation for the Certified Paralegal Exam, or ready to advance your career with a master's degree in legal studies, accredited online programs make it easier than ever to get the education you need:

Washington University School of Law offers an online Master of Legal Studies (MLS) program. This 12-month master's degree allows paralegals to gain in-depth knowledge of US Law. The program can be completed without relocating or leaving your job. No GRE or LSAT scores required.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics‘ (BLS) May 2012 report showed that paralegals and legal assistants in Tennessee made an average hourly mean wage of $20.54, with an annual mean wage of $42,710. The lowest-earning paralegals made $24,960, while those in the highest percentile made as much as $65,090. Paralegals with more education are often chosen for the higher paying positions, and Tennessee is an excellent state in which to earn to a paralegal education: paralegal programs at 11 schools in the state have been approved by the American Bar Association (ABA).

Tennessee Paralegal Certification

There is no mandatory licensing or certification of paralegals in Tennessee. Although two bills attempted to establish certified paralegals in positions at district attorneys’ offices, these bills were not passed.

Where to Earn Your Paralegal Certificate or Degree in Tennessee

Paralegal Certificates

  • Kaplan Career Institute

    Kaplan is a proprietary (for profit) institution. It offers a 600-contact hour general practice paralegal certificate program at its Nashville campus totaling 44.5 quarter credit hours. Students gain knowledge in legal terminology and concepts, civil litigation and contracts, as well as receive training in legal research and writing. Practical skills are stressed over theoretical knowledge, and a 120-hour externship is required before graduation.

    • Estimated Program Cost: $7,645 (based on posted 2013 full-program tuition)
    • Prerequisites: High school diploma, GED or home school certificate; Wonderlic SLE score of 16 or better
    • ABA Approved: Yes
    • Format: On campus

    Sample required courses:

    • Introduction to Tort Law
    • Commercial Law
    • Introduction to Legal Research & Writing
    • Dissolution: Practice and Procedure
    • Business Organizations
    • Fact Gathering and Evidence
  • Volunteer State Community College

    Located in Gallatin, Tennessee, Volunteer State Community College offers a Paralegal Studies Technical Certificate program designed for students interested in advancing in their careers, changing careers or deciding whether they would like to pursue law school. Emphasis is placed on understanding basic substantive and procedural law, and learning the practical paralegal skills of legal research and legal documentation.

    • Estimated Program Cost: $2,641 for in-state students; $10,906 for out-of-state students (based on 2013-2014 per-credit tuition)
    • Prerequisites: High school diploma or equivalent; bachelor’s degree
    • ABA Approved: No
    • Format: On campus

    Sample required courses:

    • Introduction to Law
    • Ethics and Professionalism
    • Legal Research
    • Evidence

Paralegal Associate Degrees

  • Chattanooga State Community College

    A two-year public institution, Chattanooga State Community College offers a Associate of Applied Science in paralegal studies with an embedded paralegal studies technical certificate. Graduates are prepared to enter the workplace or pursue a bachelor’s degree in legal assisting through Chattanooga State’s articulation agreement with the University of Tennessee.

    • Estimated Program Cost: $8,340 for in-state students; $26,100 for out-of-state students (based on 2013-2014 semester credit hours)
    • Prerequisites: High school diploma or GED; ACT, SAT or Compass scores
    • ABA Approved: Yes
    • Format: On campus

    Sample required courses:

    • Trial Practice & Civil Procedure
    • Spreadsheet Software Applications
    • Legal Research & Writing I & II
    • Fundamentals of Law
    • Law Practice Management
  • Southwest Tennessee Community College

    Located in Memphis, Southwest Tennessee Community College (STCC) offers an Associate of Applied Science in paralegal studies. Students learn substantive law and develop practical skills used in the paralegal profession. They choose one of four concentrations: real estate, corporate and banking, litigation or general practice.

    • Estimated Program Cost: $8,340 for in-state students; $34,440 for out-of-state students (based on fall 2013 per-credit tuition)
    • Prerequisites: Admission is open to anyone who can benefit from the education offered
    • ABA Approved: Yes
    • Format: On campus

    Sample required courses:

    • Introduction to Law
    • Legal Research
    • Courts and Procedures I & II
    • Family Law
    • Law Office Management

Paralegal Bachelor’s Degrees

  • South College

    Located in Knoxville, South College is a proprietary college offering a Bachelor of Science in legal studies. This program emphasizes a broad academic background along with analytical skills and practical applications. Students are taught fundamental theoretical concepts while learning to think independently and integrate sensitivity to historical cultural and political diversity into the practical aspects of their profession.

    • Estimated Program Cost: $81,550 (based on 2013 full-program tuition)
    • Prerequisites: High school diploma or GED; specified score on the college-administered entrance examination; minimum ACT of 17, minimum SAT of 830 or bachelor’s degree with 2.0 GPA or higher.
    • ABA Approved: Yes
    • Format: On campus

    Sample required courses:

    • Business Law I & II
    • Introduction to Paralegalism
    • Legal Research & Writing I & II
    • American and Tennessee Legal Systems
    • Legal Ethics
    • Torts and Remedies
  • University of Memphis

    A four-year public institution, the University of Memphis offers a Bachelor of Professional Studies in Legal Studies that’s designed to help students gain the knowledge and skills necessary to perform legal work under the supervision of an attorney. Emphasis is placed on theoretical and practical applications of ethical and legal principles; the collection, organization and critical analysis of legal materials; computer and communications skills; initiative, flexibility and cooperation in the workplace; and preparing students to meet the demands of the profession.

    • Estimated Program Cost: $34,664 for in-state students; $96,464 for out-of-state students (based on 2013-2014 per-credit tuition)
    • Prerequisites: High school diploma, GED (with a score of 450 or above) or home school certificatevABA Approved: Yes
    • Format: On campus

    Sample required courses:

    • Introduction to Law
    • Civil Procedure
    • Computers in the Law
    • Business Associations

Additional Paralegal Educational Programs

Professional Organizations

  • The Greater Memphis Paralegal Alliance (GMP) was organized to establish fellowship among association members and members of the legal community, to encourage high ethical and professional attainment, to cooperate with bar associations and to further education among its members. Membership benefits include seminars and educational programs, national certification exam study groups, a newsletter and professional networking opportunities.
  • The Smoky Mountain Paralegal Association (SMPA) is based in Knoxville, but it accepts members from any state. Membership is open to paralegals, students, attorneys, educational institutions, law firms and businesses and corporations that wish to promote the paralegal profession. Benefits include a monthly e-newsletter, a networking base, an online job bank, a quarterly publication and Continuing Legal Education (CLE) opportunities.
  • The Tennessee Paralegal Association (TPA) has three local chapters for paralegals in the southeastern, central and eastern regions of Tennessee. TPA strives to educate, motivate and inspire paralegals toward excellence. It provides opportunities for continuing legal education, networking, mentoring upcoming paralegals and participating in forums and community service. Each April, TPA sponsors a seminar that provides participants with CLE credit.