How to Pick a Paralegal School near Fitzgerald Georgia
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Fitzgerald GA and begin your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you find the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic options are becoming available, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students begin by looking for paralegal schools within commuting range of their Fitzgerald residences. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you ought to consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program must be taken into consideration too. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill comparable job roles and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist lawyers in Fitzgerald GA with a wide range of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is typically 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 standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their routine activities may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching related cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a Fitzgerald GA paralegal can be involved and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career in Fitzgerald GA as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve just 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might want to continue and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Georgia to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Fitzgerald GA.
Paralegal Online Certificates
Paralegal online schools have become more common and may be a good alternative for individuals in Fitzgerald GA searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to those who keep working while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online classes can often be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover 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 program and school you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the right option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing Fitzgerald GA area schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to find out 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 potential students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other crucial factors to research also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Fitzgerald GA law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the Fitzgerald GA paralegal schools you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you select 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 quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start creating contacts within the Fitzgerald GA legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Georgia legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary from state to state, it might be advantageous to select a paralegal school located in the state where you plan to work after graduating. Also, it will be important to build relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the community where you want to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to initially look at those schools that are within your Fitzgerald GA local area.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be accessible to help minimize some of the cost, so make sure to contact the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Fitzgerald GA. Naturally if you choose to attend an online school, some of these additional costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Fitzgerald GA, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Fitzgerald GA?
The city of Fitzgerald is the county seat of Ben Hill County in the U.S. state of Georgia. As of the 2010 census, it had a population of 9,053. It is the principal city of the Fitzgerald Micropolitan Statistical Area, which includes all of Ben Hill and Irwin counties.
Fitzgerald was developed in 1895 by Philander H. Fitzgerald, an Indianapolis newspaper editor and a former drummer boy in the Union Army, who founded it as a community for Civil War veterans – both from the Union and from the Confederacy. The majority of the first citizens (some 2700) were Union veterans. It was incorporated on December 2, 1896. The town is located less than 15 miles (24 km) from the site of the capture of Confederate president Jefferson Davis on May 10, 1865.
Fitzgerald is one of the few truly planned cities in the United States. The city was laid out as a square, with intersecting streets dividing it into four wards. Each of the wards was divided into four blocks and each block had sixteen squares. The first two streets running North/South on the east side of the city are named after Confederate generals Lee and Johnston, whereas the first two on the west side were named after Union generals Grant and Sherman.
After about a year, the citizens planned a Thanksgiving harvest parade. Separate Union and Confederate parades were planned. However, when the band struck up to play, the Confederates joined the Union veterans to march as one beneath the US flag.
Find the Ideal Paralegal Degree Program near Fitzgerald GA
Choosing the best paralegal degree program is a crucial first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Fitzgerald residence. Paralegal academic programs are offered in many formats and lengths. Various types of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you choose to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to evaluate each school and make your final selection. And with the appropriate education you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Fitzgerald GA.
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