How to Find a Paralegal Certificate Program near Pine Mountain Georgia
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Pine Mountain GA and begin your journey that will lead to a fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you find the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational choices are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students begin by trying to find paralegal schools within commuting range of their Pine Mountain residences. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school should be taken into account also. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can evaluate 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 options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold comparable job roles and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help attorneys in Pine Mountain GA with a wide variety of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is normally billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their daily activities may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a Pine Mountain GA paralegal can be complex and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career in Pine Mountain GA as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve just six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. Once you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and obtain a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Georgia to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your job opportunities, but help substantiate 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 school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Pine Mountain GA.
Online Paralegal Training
Paralegal online schools have become more prevalent and can be a good alternative for individuals in Pine Mountain GA searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to those who continue to work while earning a degree. As an added advantage, online programs can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a respected organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the right choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can begin the process of evaluating Pine Mountain GA area schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other significant issues to think about as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick need to be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Pine Mountain GA law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the Pine Mountain GA paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also present a pathway for students to start creating contacts within the Pine Mountain GA legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Georgia legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws vary from one state to another, it might be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you wish to practice after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially investigate those schools that are within your Pine Mountain GA local area.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential received and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be accessible to help reduce some of the expense, so make sure to contact the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Pine Mountain GA. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Pine Mountain GA, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in offers that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making-up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Pine Mountain GA?
Pine Mountain, Georgia
Enroll in the Ideal Paralegal Degree Program near Pine Mountain GA
Enrolling in the right paralegal degree program is an important 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 privacy and comfort of your Pine Mountain residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in various lengths and formats. Various types of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you choose to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to assess each school and make your final decision. And with the ideal education you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Pine Mountain GA.
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