How to Choose a Paralegal Degree Program near Riverdale Georgia
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Riverdale GA and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you find the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students start by looking for paralegal schools within commuting range of their Riverdale homes. Of those choices, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you must take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school must be taken into consideration as well. Later in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic 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 essentially both hold the same job positions and responsibilities, 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 lawyers in Riverdale GA with a diverse array of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their routine activities might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a Riverdale GA paralegal can be complicated and quite demanding. 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 apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually 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 fastest way to launch your career in Riverdale GA as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which may take just six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. When you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Georgia to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected 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 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 Riverdale GA.
Online Paralegal Degrees
Paralegal online schools have become more popular and may be an excellent option for students in Riverdale GA searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online classes can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in more 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 program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the ideal choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating Riverdale GA area schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must learn 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 as well. If you are like most 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 crucial issues to research also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Riverdale GA law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the Riverdale GA paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the Riverdale GA legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, especially 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 finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Georgia legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary among states, it might be advantageous to select a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you plan to work after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to build relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially look at those schools that are within your Riverdale GA local region.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential earned and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help offset part of the expense, so don’t forget to check with the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Riverdale GA. Of course if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these added expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Riverdale GA, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you enroll in makes available that option. Last, ask what the procedure is for making-up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Riverdale GA?
Riverdale is a city in Clayton County, Georgia, United States. The population was 15,134 at the 2010 census, up from 12,478 in 2000. Riverdale is a suburb just south of Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport and is part of the Atlanta metropolitan area.
The area now known as Riverdale was settled before the Civil War. In 1887, a railroad, built from Atlanta and Fort Valley, passed through Riverdale. Farmers in the area provided wood for the railroad. In turn, the farmers would get fertilizer. As the railroad grew, it needed more land. Mr. and Mrs. W. S. Rivers donated their land for the railroad to grow, and their land grew to become one of the railroad's main stops.
As of the census of 2000, there were 12,478 people, 4,389 households, and 3,107 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,926.3 people per square mile (1,130.9/km²). There were 4,590 housing units at an average density of 1,076.4 per square mile (416.0/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 20.09% White, 67.42% African American, 0.30% Native American, 7.73% Asian, 0.08% Pacific Islander, 2.28% from other races, and 2.10% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 4.81% of the population.
There were 4,389 households out of which 44.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 39.3% were married couples living together, 25.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.2% were non-families. 24.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 3.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.80 and the average family size was 3.32.
Choose the Right Paralegal Training near Riverdale GA
Choosing the best paralegal training program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Riverdale home. Paralegal education programs are provided in numerous formats and lengths. Various kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you choose to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to evaluate each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate education you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Riverdale GA.
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