How to Find a Paralegal College near Stuart Florida
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Stuart FL and begin your journey that will lead to a fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you find the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic choices are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students begin by trying to find paralegal schools within traveling distance of their Stuart homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be considered too. Later on in this post we will review a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational 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 for the most part both hold the same job roles and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist attorneys in Stuart FL with a wide variety of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but some of their routine activities might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a Stuart FL paralegal can be complex and very challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal advice and counsel 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 main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to start your career in Stuart FL as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which may take as little as 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Florida to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Stuart FL.
Paralegal Online Classes
Paralegal online programs have become more prevalent and may be a good option for individuals in Stuart FL looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to individuals who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online schools can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the right choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating Stuart FL area schools. But because there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant issues to think about as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Stuart FL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically available only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the Stuart FL paralegal schools you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the Stuart FL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Florida legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it might be a good idea to select a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you wish to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be important to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to initially consider those colleges that are within your Stuart FL local area.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be available to help reduce some of the cost, so make sure to contact the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Stuart FL. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, some of these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Stuart FL, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you choose makes available that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making-up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Stuart FL?
Stuart is a city in and the seat of Martin County, Florida, United States. Located on Florida's Treasure Coast, Stuart is the largest of four incorporated municipalities in Martin County. The population was 15,593 in the 2010 census. It is part of the Port St. Lucie, Florida Metropolitan Statistical Area.
In the 18th century, several Spanish galleons were shipwrecked in the Martin County area of Florida's Treasure Coast. The multiple wrecks were reportedly the result of a hurricane, and the ships were carrying unknown quantities of gold and silver. Some of this treasure has since been recovered, and its presence resulted in the region's name.
In 1832, pirate Pedro Gilbert, who often used a sandbar off the coast as a lure to unsuspecting prey, chased and caught the Mexican, a U.S. merchant ship. Although he attempted to burn the ship and kill the crew, they survived to report the incident, ultimately resulting in the capture and execution of Gilbert and his crew. The bar from which he lured his intended booty is named "Gilbert's Bar" on nautical charts.
The Treasure Coast area that became Stuart was first settled by non-Native Americans in 1870. In 1875, a United States Lifesaving Station was established on Hutchinson Island, near Stuart. Today, the station is known as Gilbert's Bar House of Refuge and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Enroll in the Right Paralegal Training near Stuart FL
Selecting the best paralegal educational program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Stuart residence. Paralegal training programs are offered in various lengths and formats. Different types of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you decide to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to evaluate each program and make your final selection. And with the right training you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Stuart FL.
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