How to Select a Paralegal College near Vicksburg Mississippi
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Vicksburg MS and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you find the best school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students start by searching for paralegal schools within driving range of their Vicksburg homes. Of those options, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program should be considered too. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you need to 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 what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill comparable job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help attorneys in Vicksburg MS with a diverse array of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is usually billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but some of their everyday tasks might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a Vicksburg MS paralegal can be complex and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career in Vicksburg MS as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which can take as little as six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Mississippi to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your job opportunities, but help substantiate 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Vicksburg MS.
Paralegal Online Programs
Online paralegal schools have become more prevalent and may be an excellent alternative for individuals in Vicksburg MS looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to individuals who keep working while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a respected agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the right choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can start the process of evaluating Vicksburg MS area schools. But since there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other crucial issues to consider also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a highly regarded organization 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 targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Vicksburg MS law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the Vicksburg MS paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no previous experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your education 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 confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Vicksburg MS legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Mississippi legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws vary among states, it might be beneficial to choose a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you plan to practice after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the area where you want to practice. 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 want to first investigate those schools that are within your Vicksburg MS local area.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential received and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be obtainable to help offset some of the cost, so be sure to check with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Vicksburg MS. Naturally if you decide to attend an online program, some of these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Vicksburg MS, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you select provides that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making up classes missed due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Vicksburg MS?
Vicksburg is the only city and county seat of Warren County, Mississippi, United States. It is located 234 miles (377 km) northwest of New Orleans on the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers, and 40 miles (64 km) due west of Jackson, the state capital. It is located on the Mississippi River across from the state of Louisiana.
The city has increased in population since 1900, when 14,834 people lived here. The population was 26,407 at the 2000 census. In 2010, it was designated as the principal city of a Micropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) with a total population of 49,644. This MSA includes all of Warren County.
The area which is now Vicksburg was long occupied by the Natchez Native Americans as part of their historical territory along the Mississippi. The Natchez spoke a language isolate not related to the Muskogean languages of the other major tribes in the area. Before the Natchez, other indigenous cultures had occupied this strategic area for thousands of years.
The first Europeans who settled the area were French colonists, who built Fort-Saint-Pierre in 1719 on the high bluffs overlooking the Yazoo River at present-day Redwood. They conducted fur trading with the Natchez and others and started plantations. On 29 November 1729, the Natchez attacked the fort and plantations in and around the present-day city of Natchez. They killed several hundred settlers, including the Jesuit missionary Father Paul Du Poisson. As was the custom, they took a number of women and children as captives.
Find the Ideal Paralegal Certificate Program near Vicksburg MS
Selecting the best paralegal educational 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 comfort and privacy of your Vicksburg home. Paralegal education programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Different kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter 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 selection. And with the right education you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Vicksburg MS.
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