How to Pick a Paralegal Degree Program near Perkins Georgia
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Perkins GA and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you find the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students start by searching for paralegal schools within driving range of their Perkins homes. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school must be taken into account as well. Later on in this article we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can assess 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 alternatives 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 the same job roles and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help lawyers in Perkins GA with a diverse array of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their daily tasks might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a Perkins GA paralegal can be involved and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially 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 fastest way to begin your career in Perkins GA as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which may take just six months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more expansive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. Once you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might want to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Georgia to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly regarded 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Perkins GA.
Online Paralegal Certificates
Paralegal online programs have become more available and can be an excellent alternative for individuals in Perkins GA searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to those who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the right option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the process of evaluating Perkins GA area schools. But considering that there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other critical aspects to consider also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Perkins GA law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are often available only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the Perkins GA paralegal schools you are considering. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also present a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Perkins GA legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job assistance 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 Georgia legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it may be advantageous to choose a paralegal school located in the state where you plan to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the area where you want to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to initially look at those colleges that are within your Perkins GA local area.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be available to help offset some of the expense, so be sure to talk to the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Perkins GA. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Perkins GA, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in provides that option. Last, inquire what the protocol is for making up missed classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Perkins GA?
Select the Right Paralegal School near Perkins GA
Enrolling in the right paralegal training program is an essential first step toward your success in the gratifying 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 Perkins residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in various lengths and formats. Various types of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you choose to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to assess each school and make your final selection. And with the ideal training you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Perkins GA.
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