How to Select a Paralegal Studies Program near Tarpon Springs Florida
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Tarpon Springs FL and start your journey that will lead to a fulfilling profession in legal services. However, it’s important that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic choices are being offered, both at school and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students begin by searching for paralegal schools within commuting range of their Tarpon Springs residences. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school should be taken into account also. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your decision. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are offered 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 hold comparable job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help attorneys in Tarpon Springs FL with a diverse array of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their regular tasks can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a Tarpon Springs FL paralegal can be complex and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to start your career in Tarpon Springs FL as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve just 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Florida to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly regarded 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 discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Tarpon Springs FL.
Paralegal Online Programs
Paralegal online schools have become more popular and can be a good alternative for those in Tarpon Springs FL looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to individuals who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive 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 dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the ideal choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can start the process of evaluating Tarpon Springs FL area schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other critical issues to research also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Tarpon Springs FL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the Tarpon Springs FL paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including 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 firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also present a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Tarpon Springs FL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Florida legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws vary among states, it might be a good idea to select a paralegal school located in the state where you plan to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be important to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the area where you choose to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to first look at those colleges that are within your Tarpon Springs FL local region.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don’t forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help reduce some of the expense, so make sure to talk to the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Tarpon Springs FL. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these added expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Tarpon Springs FL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in provides that option. Last, find out what the procedure is for making up classes missed due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Tarpon Springs FL?
Tarpon Springs, Florida
Tarpon Springs is a city in Pinellas County, Florida, United States. The population was 23,484 at the 2010 census. Tarpon Springs has the highest percentage of Greek Americans of any city in the US. Downtown Tarpon has long been a focal point and is currently undergoing beautification.
The region, with a series of bayous feeding into the Gulf of Mexico, was first settled by white and black farmers and fishermen around 1876. Some of the newly arrived visitors spotted tarpon jumping out of the waters and so named the location Tarpon Springs. In 1882, Hamilton Disston, who in the previous year had purchased the land where the city of Tarpon Springs now stands, ordered the creation of a town plan for the future city. On February 12, 1887, Tarpon Springs became the first incorporated city in what is now Pinellas County. Less than a year later on January 13, 1888, the Orange Belt Railway, the first railroad line to be built in what is now Pinellas County, arrived in the city. During this time the area was developed as a wintering spot for wealthy northerners.
In the 1880s, John K. Cheyney founded the first local sponge business. The industry continued to grow in the 1890s. Many blacks and whites from Key West and the Bahamas settled in Tarpon Springs to hook sponges and then process them. A few Greek immigrants also arrived in this city during the 1890s to work in the sponge industry.
In 1905, John Cocoris introduced the technique of sponge diving to Tarpon Springs by recruiting divers and crew members from Greece. The first divers came from the Saronic Gulf islands of Aegina and Hydra, but they were soon outnumbered by those from the Dodecanese islands of Kalymnos, Symi and Halki. The sponge industry soon became one of the leading maritime industries in Florida and the most important business in Tarpon Springs, generating millions of dollars a year. The 1953 film Beneath the 12-Mile Reef, depicting the sponge industry, takes place and was filmed in Tarpon Springs.
Select the Right Paralegal Certificate Program near Tarpon Springs FL
Selecting the ideal paralegal educational program is a crucial first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Tarpon Springs residence. Paralegal academic programs are made available in many lengths and formats. Various types of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you decide to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to review each school and make your final selection. And with the right education you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Tarpon Springs FL.
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