How to Choose a Paralegal School near Forest Park Georgia
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Forest Park GA and start your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you locate the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic choices are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students start by searching for paralegal schools within traveling distance of their Forest Park 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 qualifiers you should consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school should be taken into consideration as well. Later on in this article we will review a list of questions that you need to ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants basically 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 different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help attorneys in Forest Park GA with a wide range of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but some of their everyday tasks may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a Forest Park GA paralegal can be complex and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical 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 ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training 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 educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career in Forest Park GA as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which may require just 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and can be earned at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Georgia to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Forest Park GA.
Online Paralegal Degrees
Paralegal online schools have become more popular and may be an excellent alternative for students in Forest Park GA looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to individuals who keep working while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online classes can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in more 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 program and school you are looking into are accredited by a respected agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional setting, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can start the process of evaluating Forest Park GA area schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when 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 driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other significant issues to consider as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Forest Park GA law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the Forest Park GA paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several law offices 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 the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Forest Park GA legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Georgia legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary from state to state, it might be a good idea to select a paralegal school located in the state where you want to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to first investigate those colleges that are within your Forest Park GA local region.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential earned and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be available to help minimize part of the cost, so don’t forget to consult with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Forest Park GA. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Forest Park GA, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you choose provides that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making-up missed classes because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Forest Park GA?
Forest Park, Georgia
Forest Park is a city in Clayton County, Georgia, United States. It is located approximately nine miles (14 km) south of Atlanta and is part of the Atlanta–Sandy Springs–Marietta Metropolitan Statistical Area. As of the 2010 census, the city had a population of 18,468.
Originally the third stop from Atlanta on the Macon and Western Railroad, the city was incorporated in 1908. The 1,465-acre (5.93 km2) Fort Gillem was founded nearby in 1941 and was annexed into the city in 1973.
As of the census of 2010, there were 18,468 people, 6,877 households, and 4,839 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,990.9 people per square mile (882.8/km²). There were 7,233 housing units at an average density of 771.5 per square mile (297.7/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 19.2% White, 37.7% African American, 0.50% Native American, 7.9% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, Hispanic or Latino of any race were 34.3% of the population.
There were 6,845 households out of which 37.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.0% were married couples living together, 22.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.3% were non-families. 22.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.98 and the average family size was 3.42.
Enroll in the Ideal Paralegal Training near Forest Park GA
Choosing the best paralegal training program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Forest Park residence. Paralegal training programs are offered in numerous formats and lengths. Several 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 selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you decide to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to evaluate each school and make your final decision. And with the appropriate training you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Forest Park GA.
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