About This Course
Students who wish to be paralegals in the state of New Mexico will need to meet the educational requirements as outlined in Rule 20-115 NMRA. The post-baccalaureate Paralegal Certificate Course© combined with a Bachelors degree in any subject will qualify you to work as a paralegal in the state of New Mexico.
Our New Mexico Schools are:
- Eastern New Mexico University
- New Mexico Junior College
- University of New Mexico – Los Alamos
If you have any questions about Rule 20-115 NMRA, please do not hesitate to call us at 888-407-5138 or email us at [email protected]
Rule 20-115 NMRA may be found in a law library, can be viewed online below, or can be viewed in PDF version (you must have Adobe Reader) by clicking here.
New Mexico Rules Annotated
As used in these rules:
A. a “paralegal” is a person who:
(1) contracts with or is employed by an attorney, law firm, corporation, governmental agency or other entity;
(2) performs substantive legal work under the supervision of a licensed attorney who assumes professional responsibility for the final work product; and
(3) meets one or more of the education, training or work experience qualifications set forth in Rule 20-115 NMRA of these rules; and
B. “substantive legal work” is work that requires knowledge of legal concepts and is customarily, but not exclusively, performed by a lawyer. Examples of substantive legal work performed by a paralegal include: case planning, development and management; legal research and analysis; interviewing clients; fact gathering and retrieving information; drafting legal documents; collecting, compiling, and utilizing technical information to make an independent decision and recommendation to the supervising attorney; and representing clients before a state or federal administrative agency if that representation is authorized by law. Substantive legal work performed by a paralegal for a licensed attorney shall not constitute the unauthorized practice of law.
20-115. Paralegal Qualifications
A paralegal shall meet one or more of the following educational, training or work experience qualifications:
A. graduation from a paralegal program that is:
(1) approved by the American Bar Association;
(2) an associate degree program;
(3) a post-baccalaureate certificate program in paralegal studies; or
(4) a bachelor’s degree program;
B. graduation from a post-secondary legal assistant program which consists of a minimum of sixty (60) semester hours or equivalent, as defined by the American Bar Association guidelines for the Approval of Paralegal Education Programs, of which at least eighteen (18) semester hours or equivalent are general education courses and eighteen (18) semester hours or equivalent are legal specialty courses;
C. a bachelor’s degree in any field plus two years of substantive law-related experience under the supervision of a licensed attorney. Successful completion of at least fifteen (15) semester hours of substantive paralegal courses may be substituted for one year of law-related experience;
D. graduation from an accredited law school and not disbarred or suspended from the practice of law by the State of New Mexico or any other jurisdiction;
E. certification by the National Association of Legal Assistants, Incorporated, the National Federation of Paralegal Associations, Incorporated or other equivalent national or state competency examination plus at least one (1) year of substantive law-related experience under the supervision of a licensed attorney; or
F. A high school diploma or equivalent plus seven (7) years of substantive law-related experience under the supervision of a licensed attorney.
Who do I have to be registered with to call myself a paralegal?
20-115 NMRA does not require paralegals to be registered. Your supervising attorney should verify that you meet the educational requirements set forth in rule 20-115 NMRA before allowing you to perform paralegal work under their supervision.
Who is the governing body?
Rule 20-115 NMRA does not create a governing body for the paralegal profession. However, the bill does impose criminal penalties, and therefore, will be enforced by the courts and the consumer who brings a cause of action against an individual who violated this law. In essence, it is the consumer and the state who will enforce the provisions of Rule 20-115 NMRA.
What if I do not possess a paralegal certificate but I have worked for attorneys for over 10 years? Can I call myself a paralegal? Will I be grandfathered in?
Rule 20-115 NMRA does not specifically grandfather in paralegals. It does state that those with a high school diploma or equivalent plus 7 years of substantive law related experience under the supervision of a licensed attorney will meet the educational requirements of Rule 20-115 NMRA.
To whom should I certify that I have met the educational requirements of Rule 20-115 NMRA?
Rule 20-115 NMRA does not expressly require a paralegal to certify their education with anyone or a state entity. However, it does require paralegals to keep a record of their certifications. Practical application of the law dictates that a paralegal would have to certify their education with the supervising attorney since he/she is held liable by the paralegal’s actions. In addition, paralegals should be prepared to certify their qualifications to clients, in case the question ever arises.
What if my school was not ABA approved before I graduated? Is my paralegal certificate invalid?
Your paralegal certificate is valid under Rule 20-115(A), as long as the certificate is from a post- baccalaureate certificate program in paralegal studies.
What if I come from another state to work in New Mexico? Can I qualify under the code?
There would be no problem with a paralegal coming from another state to work in New Mexico as long as the educational requirements are met.
What if I work for a national law firm in another state other than New Mexico, can my firm send me to New Mexico to work on specific cases with them?
It would be acceptable if the paralegal is temporarily working on a case for its law firm which is located out of New Mexico. For example, if the firm is in both New Mexico and Arizona, and the New Mexico firm has a need for additional help on a specified case, the firm may send an Arizona paralegal to work on the case, as long as the paralegal is working for a New Mexico Attorney who is a member of the State Bar of New Mexico and that paralegal qualifies as a paralegal from the state in which they came. It would be acceptable for a law firm to send an “out of state” paralegal to work on specific cases.
Have the duties a paralegal performed prior to the enactment of the rule changed?
No. The duties a paralegals performs under the supervision of an attorney have not changed, nor has the level of supervision.
What are the duties a paralegal may perform?
A paralegal may still perform the tasks, including but not limited to, case planning, development and management, legal research; interviewing clients; fact gathering and retrieving information; drafting and analyzing legal documents; collecting, compiling, and utilizing technical information to make an independent decision and recommendation to the supervising attorney.
What are the prohibited activities of a paralegal?
A paralegal is governed by the same Code of Ethics and Canons of their supervising attorney. The following restrictions have been specifically laid out in Rule 20-103: A paralegal shall not do any of the following:
- Provide legal advice;
- Represent a client in court;
- Select, explain, draft, or recommend the use of any legal document to or for any person other than the attorney who directs and supervises the paralegal;
- Engage in conduct that constitutes the unlawful practice of law;
- Contract with, or be employed by, a natural person other than an attorney to perform legal services;
- In connection with providing paralegal services, induce a person to make an investment, purchase financial product or service, or enter a transaction from which income or profit, or both, purportedly may be derived;
- Establish fees to charge a client for the services the paralegal performs, which shall be established by the attorney who supervises the paralegals’ work. (This does not apply to fees charged by paralegals in a contract to provide legal services to an attorney, law firm, corporation, governmental agency, etc.)
- Perform any services for a consumer except as performed under the supervision of the attorney, law firm, corporation, government attorney, without that attorney’s consent, on the subject of such representation.
Are the prohibitions any different that they were prior to the enactment of Rule 20-115 NMRA?
No. These activities were prohibited prior to the enactment of Rule 20-115 NMRA.
As an attorney, do I have to keep a record of my paralegals?
The law does not require you to, but given that the supervising attorney is liable for the actions of the paralegal, it is in your best interest to do so.