Become a Paralegal in South Dakota

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that there were 440 paralegals and legal assistants employed in South Dakota in 2012. Their hourly mean wage was $20.12 with an annual mean wage of $41,850. Paralegals with more experience, certification and higher skills often earn more per hour and get the prime positions; some paralegals in the state made as much as $55,490 per year as of 2012.

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The future for paralegals in general is promising: the BLS predicts a nationwide increase of 18 percent in paralegal positions between 2010 and 2020. This expected growth is due to several factors, not the least of which is the fact that in a tough economy, law firms and businesses are looking for means to cut costs. Paralegals are now taking on duties that, in the past, were often handled by high-priced attorneys. Working under the supervision of attorneys, paralegals are increasingly seen as means of obtaining quality legal services at a lower cost. In addition, the law now impacts virtually every aspect of life and as a result, more legal services are needed not only by law firms, but by corporations, social and environmental groups, the criminal justice system and government entities. These are markers of good things on the horizon, especially for those who invest in their education to be competitive in a growing field.

Paralegal Certification

There is no mandatory licensing or certification required to work as paralegal or legal assistant in South Dakota. South Dakota codified Law CHAPTER 16-18 – POWERS AND DUTIES OF ATTORNEYS, Section 34 gives the definition of legal assistants and rules of professional conduct. These rules apply to all unlicensed persons who work under the supervision of attorneys and are presented as having training or education qualifying them to assist in handling legal matters or document preparation for clients. A revision of these rules was presented to the South Dakota Supreme Court in 2006 by the State Bar, but the proposal was rejected.

Where to Earn Your Paralegal Certificate or Degree in South Dakota

Paralegal Associate Degrees

  • National American University (NAU)

    A private, four-year university, National American University (NAU) has been repeatedly recognized as a military-friendly school. It offers an Associate of Applied Science in paralegal studies at its Rapid City and Sioux Falls campuses that utilizes a performance-based curriculum. Student learn substantive and procedural law, in addition to developing practical skills in research, oral and written communication, document preparation and using legal technology. Graduates can pursue entry-level positions in law firms, business, the court system or government agencies, or can apply their credits toward a bachelor’s degree.

    • Estimated Program Cost: $31,838; $16,400 for military students (based on 2013 full-program tuition)
    • Prerequisites: High school diploma or equivalent
    • ABA Approved: Yes
    • Format: On Campus

    Sample required courses:

    • Introduction to Legal Principles
    • Law Office Technology
    • Legal Research I & II
    • Criminal Procedure
    • Classical Rhetoric in a Digital Age
  • Western Dakota Technical Institute

    Located in South Dakota’s Black Hills, Western Dakota Technical Institute (WDTI) is a two-year public institution offering a paralegal/legal assistant.Associate in Applied Science. WDT has very specific goals for students in this program encompassing life skills, analytical skills, communication skills, technology skills, teamwork, social values and employability upon graduation. Students learn ethics, time management, substantive and procedural law, how to analyze legal issues and oral and written communication skills. Both up-to-date computer skills and traditional legal reference materials are used for legal research. WDTI’s close proximity to Ellsworth Air Force Base makes this school a good choice for military personnel and their families seeking to further their education or increase their career potential.

    • Estimated Program Cost: $7,280 (based on 2013-2014 full-program tuition)
    • Prerequisites: Age 16 or above and able to benefit from the education offered; 30 WPM typing proficiency
    • ABA Approved: Yes
    • Format: On Campus

    Sample required courses:

    • Introduction to Paralegalism
    • American Legal System and Constitutional Law
    • Law Office Procedure
    • Law of Business Organizations

Paralegal Bachelor’s Degrees

  • Globe University

    Globe University is a private university offering a paralegal Bachelor of Science that gives students a solid foundation in legal terminology, principles and procedures. Coursework includes legal research, specialty areas of the law, interviewing and investigation, torts and litigation. Students receive hands-on experience through a paralegal externship, and courses are offered during the day, in the evening and online.

    • Estimated Program Cost: $70,200 – $82,800 (based on 2014 full-program tuition)
    • Prerequisites: High school diploma or GED; minimum test scores or bachelor’s degree
    • ABA Approved: No
    • Format: On campus or online
  • National American University (NAU)

    National American University (NAU) is a private, four-year university offering a Bachelor of Science in paralegal studies that’s available on both the Rapid City and Sioux Falls campuses. Students learn substantive and procedural law, how to analyze legal issues, legal research skills, effective oral and written communication and legal ethics. Credits earned in school’s paralegal associate degree program may be counted toward this bachelor’s degree program.

    • Estimated Program Cost: $58,560; $30,149 for military students (based on 2013-2014 full-program tuition)
    • Prerequisites: High school diploma or equivalent
    • ABA Approved: Yes
    • Format: On campus

    Sample required courses:

    • Domestic Relations
    • Introduction to Legal Principles
    • Torts
    • Civil Procedure
    • Criminal Procedure

Additional Paralegal Educational Program

Professional Organizations

  • The South Dakota Paralegal Association (SDPA) is based in Sioux Falls, and promotes fellowship among its members, the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) and other members of the legal community. Members have access to the SDPA job bank, may attend area luncheons in Pierre, Rapid City, Sioux Falls and Watertown, receive the association’s newsletter and may participate in continuing legal education events.
  • The Rocky Mountain Paralegal Association is a charter member of the National Federation of Paralegal Associations, and is headquartered in Denver. It represents paralegals throughout the Rocky Mountain region, serving those in Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming. In addition to being employed by law firms, corporations and government agencies, its members volunteer and provide pro bono legal assistance in the community.