How to Become a Paralegal in South Dakota (2024 Guide)

A career as a paralegal in South Dakota offers diverse opportunities, professional growth, and the chance to make a meaningful impact on the lives of clients. Are you interested in joining the ranks of legal professionals in South Dakota? In this guide, we’ll guide you through the steps on how to become a paralegal in South Dakota, explore the varied job duties, and discuss related careers in the legal field. So, let’s start your journey towards a fulfilling paralegal career in the Mount Rushmore State.

What you’re about to learn in this guide:

  • Become a paralegal in South Dakota by meeting educational and experiential criteria, such as ABA-approved programs and supervised law experience.

  • Voluntary certification is available to demonstrate commitment to the profession, with job duties varying depending on direct attorney supervision.

  • Paralegals can access numerous resources from professional organizations for networking events, research materials and career advancement opportunities.

Pathway to Becoming a Paralegal in South Dakota

South Dakota does not require mandatory paralegal certification, but there are specific education and experience requirements to enter the profession. Paralegals, also referred to as legal assistants, can find professional opportunities in regional law firms, corporations, and governmental agencies.

The Sioux Falls area, in particular, is home to a significant concentration of paralegals, with many law firms employing legal professionals.

Education Requirements

Pursuing a bachelor’s degree or a law degree in legal studies, preferably from a law school with an American Bar Association (ABA) approved program, is advisable for those aspiring to become a certified legal assistant in South Dakota. Enrolling in an ABA-approved program, like the ones offered by Western Dakota Technical Institute or Sinte Gleska University, can make you a more attractive prospect for law firms in the state.

Programs are designed to deliver instruction on varied topics such as:

  • ethics

  • time management

  • substantive and procedural law

  • legal analysis and communication

Individuals who take advantage of such programs can enhance the skills needed to be successful in a legal environment.

Gaining Experience

Besides formal education, practical experience plays a vital role in shaping a successful paralegal career in South Dakota. Aspiring paralegals can acquire experience through internships, job shadowing, and working with legal aid agencies or pro bono organizations.

To qualify as a paralegal in South Dakota through experience alone, one must have three years of supervised law-related experience. This includes a minimum of six months of in-house training or two years of in-house training as a legal assistant.

Voluntary Certification

Though South Dakota doesn’t mandate certification, voluntary certification can bolster a paralegal’s professional commitment, making them more competitive in the job market. One such certification is the NALA CLA/CP exam, designed for paralegals new to the profession.

Upon successful completion of the exam, paralegals are eligible to use the designation of CP (Certified Paralegal) following their name, meeting the qualifications for paralegals as mandated by South Dakota.

Paralegal Job Duties in South Dakota

Performing a variety of tasks to assist attorneys in their legal work is part of a South Dakota paralegal’s role. These duties include:

  • Legal research

  • Writing

  • Evidence collection

  • Client communication

  • Organizing legal files

  • Aiding attorneys in preparing legal documents

  • Helping with case management

  • Carrying out administrative tasks

Paralegals play a crucial role in supporting attorneys and ensuring the smooth operation of legal processes within a law firm.

In South Dakota, paralegals are required to perform their duties under the direct supervision of an attorney, who holds the responsibility for their professional conduct and the legal services they provide. This ensures that paralegals uphold the highest standards of professionalism and ethics in their work.

The legal field offers various related career options for those interested in working alongside paralegals and attorneys. Some of these careers in South Dakota include:

  • Legal secretaries, who provide administrative support to lawyers

  • Claims adjusters, who investigate insurance claims

  • Title examiners, who review public records to determine property ownership.

While these related careers entail different education and training levels, each plays a part in the smooth operation of the legal system. By pursuing a career in the legal field, you can contribute to the justice system and make a difference in the lives of clients.

Employment opportunities for paralegals in South Dakota can be found in law firms, corporations, and government agencies. The growth of the paralegal profession in South Dakota remains robust, with a predicted 19.4% expansion through 2026.

Such employment trends indicate a bright future for those aspiring to become paralegals in South Dakota. By acquiring the necessary education and experience, paralegals can capitalize on the growing demand for their skills and expertise in the legal field, as evidenced by labor statistics.

Paralegal Salary Ranges in South Dakota

Factors such as experience, educational attainment, and geographical area cause variability in the salary ranges of paralegals in South Dakota. The average South Dakota paralegal salary is $50,410.

Salaries can range from $30,000 to $70,000, depending on the factors mentioned above. This wide range highlights the potential for financial growth and success in the paralegal profession and serves as an incentive for aspiring paralegals to strive for excellence in their education and professional experience.

Online and Traditional Paralegal Programs in South Dakota

Aspiring paralegals can choose the learning format that aligns with their needs and preferences, thanks to the online and traditional paralegal programs offered in South Dakota. Sinte Gleska University and the University of South Dakota provide ABA-approved options in the state. Sinte Gleska University offers a bachelor’s degree in business with a minor in legal studies, while the University of South Dakota offers a Legal Studies Capstone course as part of its program.

These online and traditional paralegal programs provide students with the flexibility to balance their education with their professional and personal commitments. By enrolling in such programs, aspiring paralegals can gain the knowledge and skills needed to excel in the legal field.

Paralegal Associations and Networking in South Dakota

The South Dakota Paralegal Association (SDPA) is a valuable resource for paralegals in the state, offering networking and professional development opportunities. Membership in the SDPA provides access to professional growth activities, networking events, and other resources that can help paralegals advance their careers.

Membership in the SDPA offers the following benefits:

  • Sharing knowledge and experiences with fellow legal professionals

  • Staying updated on the latest developments in the field

  • Fostering professional growth

  • Creating a supportive network for paralegals in South Dakota

Such associations play a crucial role in supporting and advancing the paralegal profession in South Dakota.

Additional Resources for South Dakota Paralegals

Beyond the resources provided by the South Dakota Paralegal Association, online resources offer paralegals valuable information on employment trends, salary data, and paralegal associations. Websites like ours offer guidance on how to become a paralegal in South Dakota and provide resources for paralegal studies.

The Library of Congress and the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) are also beneficial resources for paralegals in South Dakota. By taking advantage of these resources, paralegals can:

  • Stay informed on the latest industry trends

  • Access valuable research materials

  • Connect with other professionals in the field

  • Stay updated on best practices

  • Enhance their knowledge and skills

  • Ensure continued success in their careers.


In conclusion, a career as a paralegal in South Dakota offers diverse opportunities, professional growth, and the chance to make a meaningful impact on the lives of clients. By following the steps outlined in this guide, aspiring paralegals can acquire the education, experience, and certifications needed to excel in the legal field. With a supportive network of associations and resources, paralegals in South Dakota can look forward to a fulfilling and successful career in the legal profession.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I become a paralegal in SD?

To become a paralegal in South Dakota, candidates should hold a high school diploma/GED and complete an ABA-approved paralegal program, OR complete a non-ABA accredited paralegal program with 60 hours of in-classroom study, OR have two years of on-the-job paralegal training and three years of law-related experience plus six months of on-the-job paralegal training.

A legal studies major at USD is an opportunity to gain insights into the history and practical application of law while honing your analytical, writing, advocacy and communication skills. This degree prepares you for either law school or a variety of legal careers.

What are the education requirements for becoming a paralegal in South Dakota?

To become a paralegal in South Dakota, you should pursue a degree or certificate in legal studies from an ABA-approved program.

Are there any voluntary certifications available for paralegals in South Dakota?

Yes, there is a voluntary certification option available for paralegals in South Dakota: the NALA CLA/CP exam.

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