How to Choose the Right Paralegal Certificate Program near Winterville Georgia
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Winterville GA and start your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you locate the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational options are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students start by searching for schools within driving range of their Winterville homes. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you must take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be taken into account as well. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your decision. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold comparable job positions and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Winterville GA attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their everyday activities can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to start your career as a paralegal in Winterville GA is by earning a certificate, which can take just 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. After you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Georgia to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected certifying organizations in the profession are:
- National Federation of Paralegal Associations
- American Alliance of Paralegals
- National Association of Legal Assistants
- National Association for Legal Professionals
By graduating with a paralegal degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Points to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Winterville GA area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other critical issues to consider also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Winterville GA law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some Winterville GA law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while still in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the Winterville GA legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Georgia legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ among states, it may be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Georgia or the state where you want to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the area where you choose to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to initially look at those colleges that are within the Winterville GA region.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be obtainable to help offset part of the expense, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Winterville GA. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online program, some of these added expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while getting their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Winterville GA, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in offers that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making-up classes missed because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Schools
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more popular and can be a good option for those searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to individuals who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a respected agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Winterville GA?
If you live near Winterville Georgia or perhaps are considering attending classes in that area, following is some interesting and useful information regarding the location of your new school campus.
Winterville is a city in Clarke County, Georgia, United States. Since 1991, Winterville has been the only municipality located wholly within Athens-Clarke County. The population was 1,122 at the 2010 census.
Winterville is located at 33°58′00″N 83°16′54″W / 33.966720°N 83.281669°W / 33.966720; -83.281669, a 6-mile (10 km)–drive from the University of Georgia. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 2.7 square miles (6.9 km2), all land.
As of the census of 2010, there were 1,122 people, 485 households, and 318 families residing in the city. The population density was 431.5 people per square mile (162.6/km2). There were 529 housing units at an average density of 203.5 per square mile (76.7/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 73.35% White, 21.84% African American, 0.36% Asian, 0.27% Native American, 3.57% from other races, and 0.62% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino people of any race were 5.26% of the population.
Paralegal Program Winterville GA
Choosing the right paralegal studies degree school is a vital first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about Paralegal Program. But as we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Winterville residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in various formats and lengths. Various types of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you elect to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to evaluate each program and make your final selection. And with the appropriate training you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Winterville GA.
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