Once governed by Spanish colonialists, New Mexico did not become a state until 1912, making it one of the last states to be admitted to the union. When America assumed ownership in 1848, descendants of Spanish colonialists living there for over 400 years became American citizens. New Mexico also has the second-highest native population of any state by percentage.
Despite this mixture of diverse cultures and backgrounds, nearly all New Mexicans will need legal services at some point in their lives. Spanish-speaking paralegals, paralegals with knowledge of tribal law can particularly benefit, but becoming a paralegal of any type can create amazing career opportunities in a fascinating field. You can explore your options for becoming a paralegal in New Mexico by following the process below:
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How to Become a Paralegal in New Mexico
- Certification: New Mexico requires certification from a national paralegal association to operate as a paralegal if the candidate cannot meet the other experience or educational criteria.
- Age: No minimum age is required in the state of New Mexico, but employers typically require candidates to be 18 years or older.
- Licensure: In lieu of licensure, individuals must meet New Mexico’s minimum state requirements before being able to be legally employed in a paralegal position.
- Degree: Holding a bachelor’s degree or an associate’s degree from a paralegal studies program can allow candidates to satisfy one of the options for eligibility.
- Experience: In lieu of or in addition to training in a paralegal studies degree or certification program, candidates may be required to have one to seven years of “substantive law-related experience under the supervision of a licensed attorney.”
- Citizenship: New Mexico law does not dictate citizenship requirements for paralegal applicants, but they must be able to legally live and work in the United States.
Specific New Mexico Requirements
To accept work as a paralegal in New Mexico, applicants must first satisfy one of the following requirements:
- Graduate from one of the following types of paralegal program that has been approved by the American Bar Association (ABA):
- An associate degree program
- A post-baccalaureate certificate program in paralegal studies
- A bachelor’s degree program
- Graduate from a post-secondary legal assistant program with a minimum of 60 semester hours or any equivalent as designated American Bar Association’s guidelines for the Approval of Paralegal Education Programs; such a program must have at least 18 semester hours or equivalent of law specialty coursework and at least 18 hours of general law education.
- A bachelor’s degree in any field as well as two years of qualifying experience working under a licensed attorney; completing at least 15 semester hours of paralegal coursework can reduce the experience needed to one year.
- Graduation from an accredited law school and current good standing with the State Bar of New Mexico.
- Qualifying certification from a nationally recognized paralegal association, such as the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) or the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), in addition to at least one year of qualifying supervised experience.
- A high school diploma or GED plus seven years of qualifying legal experience under the supervision of a licensed attorney.
Certification Process in New Mexico
Getting a certification can allow you to pursue one of the optional training and experience routes to become qualified to work as a paralegal in the state of New Mexico. Enrolling in a course accredited by the NFPA, NALA, the ABA or similar organizations can allow you to obtain certification upon successful completion of the course.
You may also be able to register for the Paralegal Core Competency Exam or Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam, which will grant you respective certifications upon submitting a passing score.
Major Cities in New Mexico
- Albuquerque is a major city in New Mexico with a population of 545,852 as of 2010.
- While dwarfed by the population of its largest city, Las Cruces in Doña Ana County is nevertheless New Mexico’s second most populous city with 97,618 residents.
- Rio Rancho is New Mexico’s third-largest city with 87,521 residents.
- 48,366 residents qualifies Roswell, New Mexico as the fourth-biggest city.
- With 45,877 residents, Farmington is the state’s fifth-largest city.
What Does a Paralegal Do in New Mexico?
A paralegal may perform services assisting their supervising licensed attorney as long as they do not overstep the authority of someone not licensed to act as an attorney in the state. For instance, a paralegal cannot provide legal advice, cannot represent a client in court and cannot engage in conduct that can be interpreted as unauthorized practice of law (NMRA 20-103). Supervising attorneys assume full responsibility and legal liability for the actions of their paralegal employees.
Duties of a paralegal in New Mexico will vary according to the type of practice they are employed in as well as the individual preferences of their employer. Common duties include filing legal documents, researching precedent and case law, assisting in discovery, interviewing possible clients and generally serving their supervising attorney in any capacity needed that does not circumvent the law.
Similar careers to paralegal in New Mexico include legal interpreter, tribal attorney paralegal, court clerk, compliance officer and legal assistant.
Employment Numbers in New Mexico
1,860 individuals are employed as a paralegal or a legal assistant in the state of New Mexico as of 2015, according to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). 1,090 of these are employed in the Albuquerque area.
Bureau of Labor Statistics Salary Ranges in New Mexico
Annual salaries for paralegals and legal assistants combined in New Mexico averaged $41,840 in New Mexico, but these numbers include lower-paying and easier-to-qualify-for legal assistant positions.
New Mexico Related Organizational Links
- State Bar of New Mexico Paralegal Division
- New Mexico Paralegal Association
- Rules/Orders Governing Paralegal Minimum Qualifications and Permitted Actions (NMRA 20-101 – 20-115)
Education Programs for Paralegals in New Mexico
- Paralegal Studies, AA
- Legal Studies, BA
- Master of Divinitiy - Law Studies
- Master of Business Administration in International Legal Studies
- Master of Business Administration in American Legal Studies
- Master of Legal Studies