How to Choose a Paralegal Training Program near Tifton Georgia
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Tifton GA and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. However, it’s important that you find the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational choices are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students begin by looking for paralegal schools within driving distance of their Tifton homes. Of those choices, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program must be considered too. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your selection. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional 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 the same job roles 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 help attorneys in Tifton GA with a wide variety of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their daily activities can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a Tifton GA paralegal can be involved and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical tasks more apropos 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 take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career in Tifton GA as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve just 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. Once you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Georgia to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your employment 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Tifton GA.
Paralegal Online Certificates
Online paralegal schools have become more common and may be an excellent option for students in Tifton GA looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to individuals who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the ideal option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can start the process of evaluating Tifton GA area schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other important factors to research 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 researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your final selection.
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 school, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Tifton GA law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually available only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the Tifton GA paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no previous work history, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while still in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the Tifton GA legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be difficult without help. 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 large networks and great relationships with Georgia legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it may be a good idea to choose a paralegal school located in the state where you want to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be important to build relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to initially look at those colleges that are within your Tifton GA local area.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. 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 also. Financial assistance may be available to help offset part of the cost, so be sure to check with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is available in Tifton GA. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Tifton GA, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select offers that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making-up classes missed due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Tifton GA?
The area's public schools are administered by the Tift County School District, including two high schools. Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College has its main campus in Tifton. Southern Regional Technical College and the University of Georgia also have Tifton campuses.
Sites in the area include the Coastal Plain Research Arboretum, Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, and the Georgia Museum of Agriculture & Historic Village. The Tifton Residential Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Tifton Gazette is published three days a week in Tifton.
Tifton is located in south central Georgia along Interstate 75, which runs north to south through the city, leading north 167 mi (269 km) to Atlanta and south 45 mi (72 km) to Valdosta. Other highways that pass through the city include U.S. Route 41, U.S. Route 82, U.S. Route 319, and Georgia State Route 125.
Henry Tift Myers Airport (IATA: TMA, ICAO: KTMA, FAA LID: TMA) is a public airport located two miles (3 km) southeast of Tifton, serving the general aviation community, with no scheduled commercial airline service.
Enroll in the Right Paralegal Degree Program near Tifton GA
Choosing the ideal paralegal training program is an important first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Tifton home. Paralegal education programs are provided in numerous lengths and formats. Various types of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including junior and community 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 opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you decide to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to assess each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the right training you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Tifton GA.
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