How to Find a Paralegal Degree Program near Pineland South Carolina
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Pineland SC and start your journey that will lead to a rewarding career in legal services. However, it’s essential that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational options are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students start by looking for paralegal schools within commuting range of their Pineland homes. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program should be taken into account also. Later on in this article we will review a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your decision. But first, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational 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 essentially both fill the same job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help attorneys in Pineland SC with a wide range of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their regular tasks can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a Pineland SC paralegal can be complex and very challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical duties more applicable 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 ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially 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 start your career in Pineland SC as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which can take just 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more expansive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 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 proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in South Carolina to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected certifying organizations 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 school (we will address the advantages 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 Pineland SC.
Paralegal Online Certificates
Paralegal online programs have become more prevalent and can be a good alternative for students in Pineland SC looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to individuals who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the right choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can start the process of assessing Pineland SC area schools. But because there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other critical aspects 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 programs you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee 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. Many Pineland SC law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the Pineland SC paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no previous experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also provide a means for students to begin creating contacts within the Pineland SC legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with South Carolina legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Because laws differ from state to state, it may be a good idea to select a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you plan to work after graduating. In addition, it will be important to build relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the community where you want to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially investigate those colleges that are within your Pineland SC local area.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help minimize some of the expense, so be sure to talk to the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Pineland SC. Naturally if you choose to attend an online school, some of these added expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Pineland SC, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making up classes missed due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Pineland SC?
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Choose the Ideal Paralegal School near Pineland SC
Selecting the right paralegal degree program is a crucial first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Pineland residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in numerous formats and lengths. Several types of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you decide to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to examine each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the right education you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Pineland SC.
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