How to Choose a Paralegal Certificate Program near Summerville Georgia
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Summerville GA and begin your journey that will lead to a fulfilling profession in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational choices are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students start by trying to find paralegal schools within driving distance of their Summerville homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program must be taken into consideration also. Later in this article we will review a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic 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 for the most part both fill comparable job positions and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist lawyers in Summerville GA with a wide variety of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is typically billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their routine tasks might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a Summerville GA paralegal can be involved and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to start your career in Summerville GA as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve as little as 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. When you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might choose to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Georgia to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected certifying agencies 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Summerville GA.
Paralegal Online Training
Paralegal online programs have become more popular and may be an excellent alternative for students in Summerville GA searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to those who continue to work while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online classes can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain 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, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the right choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can start the process of assessing Summerville GA area schools. But since there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can 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 begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important aspects to research as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose should be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Summerville GA law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the Summerville GA paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking 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 call a few law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also present a means for students to start developing contacts within the Summerville GA legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Georgia legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it might be advantageous to choose a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you wish to work after graduation. Also, it will be important to create relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the area where you choose to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially investigate those colleges that are within your Summerville GA local region.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, 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 also. Financial aid may be obtainable to help reduce part of the expense, so don’t forget to consult with the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Summerville GA. Naturally if you decide to attend an online program, some of these additional costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Summerville GA, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you choose offers that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making up classes missed due to work, illness or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Summerville GA?
Summerville was founded in 1838 as seat of the newly formed Chattooga County. It was incorporated as a town in 1839 and as a city in 1909. Summerville was named from the fact it was a popular summer resort. The city thrived in the late 1880s with the construction of the Chattanooga, Rome and Columbus Railroad (later part of the Central of Georgia system).
The Chattooga County Courthouse, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was completed in 1909. The Summerville Depot, completed by the Central of Georgia in 1918, is also listed on the National Register, and is home to several annual festivals.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 4.0 square miles (10.3 km²), all of it land. The city lies along the Chattooga River at the western base of an elongate mountain known as Taylor Ridge. U.S. Route 27 connects Summerville with Chattanooga, Tennessee, to the north, and Rome to the southeast. Georgia State Route 114 connects the city with Lyerly to the south, and Georgia State Route 48 connects the city with Menlo near the Alabama state line to the west.
As of the census of 2000, there were 4,556 people, 1,823 households, and 1,141 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,144.3 people per square mile (442.0/km²). There were 2,092 housing units at an average density of 525.4 per square mile (202.9/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 72.06% White, 25.31% African American, 0.07% Native American, 0.15% Asian, 0.90% from other races, and 1.51% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.58% of the population.
Enroll in the Best Paralegal School near Summerville GA
Choosing the ideal paralegal training program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Summerville home. Paralegal training programs are offered in many formats and lengths. Various kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, 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 profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you choose to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to examine each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate training you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Summerville GA.
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