How to Select the Right Paralegal Studies Program near Okolona Mississippi
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Okolona MS and start your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic choices are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students start by searching for schools within traveling range of their Okolona homes. Of those choices, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program ought to be taken into consideration as well. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both fill the same job positions and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Okolona MS lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their daily tasks might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, 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 job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Okolona MS is by obtaining a certificate, which can require as little as six months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Mississippi to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected certifying organizations in the field 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 school (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Things to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can start the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Okolona MS area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant factors to research as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Okolona MS law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Okolona MS law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while still in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the Okolona MS legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Mississippi legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary among states, it might be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school located in Mississippi or the state where you want to practice after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the community where you desire to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to initially consider those colleges that are within the Okolona MS area.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost based on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be available to help minimize part of the expense, so be sure to check with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Okolona MS. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Okolona MS, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you select offers that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making-up classes missed because of work, illness or family obligations.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Degrees
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more popular and may be an excellent option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a respected agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the right option for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Okolona MS?
If you live near Okolona 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.
Okolona is a city in and one of the two county seats of Chickasaw County, Mississippi, United States. It is located near the eastern border of the county. The population was 2,692 at the 2010 census.
Okolona was named as Rose Hill in 1845 early in its settlement, but residents later discovered that another location had this name. When a US post office was established here in 1850, a new name was needed to avoid confusion in mail delivery. According to the Okolona Area Chamber of Commerce, Colonel Josiah N. Walton, postmaster of nearby Aberdeen, remembered an encounter with a Chickasaw warrior years earlier. The man's name was Oka-laua, meaning peaceful, yellow, or blue water. Walton renamed Rose Hill as Okolona in his honor.
Due to the destruction brought to the area by the Civil War, few structures from the antebellum period remain. The Elliot Donaldson House, constructed in 1850, survives and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. A few other homes have also survived.
Accredited Paralegal Certificate Online Okolona MS
Choosing the ideal legal assistant training 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 Accredited Paralegal Certificate Online. But as we have discussed 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 Okolona residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Different types of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you choose to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Okolona MS.
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