How to Select a Paralegal Degree Program near Southaven Mississippi
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Southaven MS and begin your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to achieve success. 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 becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students start by looking for paralegal schools within commuting range of their Southaven residences. Of those options, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program ought to be taken into consideration also. Later on in this article we will review a list of questions that you ought to ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your decision. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic choices 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. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help attorneys in Southaven MS with a wide variety of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but some of their regular tasks might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a Southaven MS paralegal can be complex and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career in Southaven MS as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which may require as little as 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more expansive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. Once you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Mississippi to work 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 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 discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Southaven MS.
Online Paralegal Classes
Paralegal online schools have become more common and can be an excellent alternative for those in Southaven MS looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to individuals who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training 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 highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the ideal option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Schools
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing Southaven MS area schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important aspects to consider also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select should be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Southaven MS law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually available only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the Southaven MS paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the Southaven MS legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Mississippi legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it might be advantageous to choose a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you want to work after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the area where you choose to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to initially investigate those colleges that are within your Southaven MS local area.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be accessible to help minimize some of the cost, so don’t forget to consult with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is available in Southaven MS. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, some of these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Southaven MS, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you select provides that option. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making up classes missed due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Southaven MS?
Southaven is a city in DeSoto County, Mississippi, United States. It is a suburb of Memphis, Tennessee, and a principal city in the Memphis metropolitan area. The 2010 census reported a population of 48,982, making Southaven the third-largest city in Mississippi. Southaven is traversed from north to south by the I-55/I-69 freeway. The city's name derives from the fact that Southaven is located south of Whitehaven, a neighborhood in Memphis.
Southaven began as a village when Memphis homebuilder Kemmons Wilson (founder of Holiday Inn) wished to develop a few residential subdivisions featuring small starter homes just across the Mississippi border from Whitehaven, Tennessee, an unincorporated suburb of Memphis. Whitehaven was eventually annexed by Memphis. Officially incorporated in 1980, Southaven is one of the fastest-growing cities in the southeastern United States. In just 20 years, Southaven doubled its land area, while its population tripled.
The construction of Interstate 55 through Southaven in the 1970s helped to promote growth and make for easier access to the city from Memphis, Jackson, St. Louis, and Chicago. Interstate 69, which will eventually run from Canada to Mexico, was cosigned with I-55 in Southaven in 2007.
In 1988, Baptist Hospital-DeSoto opened in Southaven as a two-story hospital. In 2001, Baptist DeSoto started an expansion project, nearly doubling the size of the hospital. In 2002, Baptist Hospital-DeSoto added an Outpatient Diagnostic Center and a Women's Center. In November 2006, Baptist DeSoto opened an eleven-story hospital tower that added 140 beds to the facility, allowing it to offer all private rooms. In addition, the new hospital tower added a new and expanded Emergency Department, more operating suites and space for future additions. It is the first high-rise building constructed in DeSoto County.
Select the Right Paralegal Certificate Program near Southaven MS
Selecting the ideal paralegal degree program is a vital first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Southaven home. Paralegal academic programs are made available in various lengths and formats. Several types of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you elect to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to examine each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Southaven MS.
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