How to Choose the Right Paralegal Certificate Program near Perkinston Mississippi
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Perkinston MS and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you find the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students begin by looking for schools within commuting distance of their Perkinston residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program ought to be taken into account also. Later on in this article we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your selection. But first, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold the same job roles and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Perkinston MS attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but some of their day-to-day activities can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career as a paralegal in Perkinston MS is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve as little as 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Mississippi to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Things to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Perkinston MS 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 if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important factors to research also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Perkinston MS law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Perkinston MS law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also provide a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Perkinston MS legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide 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 secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Mississippi legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Because laws differ from one state to another, it may be beneficial to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Mississippi or the state where you want to practice after graduating. Also, it will be important to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the community where you want to work. 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 first look at those colleges that are within the Perkinston MS area.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help minimize some of the expense, so make sure to talk to the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Perkinston MS. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while getting their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Perkinston MS, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you choose provides that option. Last, ask what the procedure is for making up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Classes
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more available and can be an excellent alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to those who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can often be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the right choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Perkinston MS?
If you live near Perkinston Mississippi or perhaps are considering attending classes in that area, following is some interesting and useful information regarding the location of your new school campus.
Perkinston is an unincorporated community in central Stone County, Mississippi, United States. It is situated along U.S. Highway 49, approximately five miles south of Wiggins. The community is part of the Gulfport–Biloxi, Mississippi Metropolitan Statistical Area.
Abundant forests established timber and turpentine production as early industries. The Perkinston community benefited from the Gulf and Ship Island Railroad, which was constructed through the village in the late 1890s. Beginning in 1911, Perkinston served mainly as a campus for the Harrison County Agricultural High School, which developed into Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. Through time, the village had few commercial establishments, but did have a post office, general store, churches, and a gasoline service station.
Legal Assistant Program Perkinston MS
Selecting the ideal paralegal studies training program is an important 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 Legal Assistant Program. But as we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Perkinston residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in numerous formats and lengths. Different types of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But no matter how you decide to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to assess each program and make your final decision. And with the ideal education you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Perkinston MS.
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