How to Pick a Paralegal School near Sylvester Georgia
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Sylvester GA and start your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you locate the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic options are becoming available, both at school and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students start by searching for paralegal schools within traveling distance of their Sylvester residences. Of those options, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school should be taken into account too. 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 every one prior to making your choice. But first, let’s have a look at 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 functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist attorneys in Sylvester GA with a wide range of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their regular tasks might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a Sylvester GA paralegal can be involved and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Training 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 academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career in Sylvester GA as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which may require just six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. Once you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might want to proceed and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Georgia to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your career opportunities, but help establish 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will discuss 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 Sylvester GA.
Online Paralegal Programs
Online paralegal schools have become more common and may be an excellent option for individuals in Sylvester GA looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to those who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online classes can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a respected organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the ideal choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can begin the process of assessing Sylvester GA area schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant issues to think about as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Sylvester GA law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the Sylvester GA paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also present a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Sylvester GA legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Georgia legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it may be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you plan to practice after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to initially investigate those schools that are within your Sylvester GA local area.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. 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 find out what is available in Sylvester GA. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, some of these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Sylvester GA, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select provides that option. Last, ask what the procedure is for making-up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Sylvester GA?
Sylvester is the county seat of Worth County, Georgia, United States. The population was 5,990 at the 2000 census. The city is the county seat and business center of Worth County and is claimed to be the Peanut Capital of the World due to its peanut production.
Before being well known as a speed trap town; Sylvester started as a "beautiful nowhere" in 1893 and was first called "Isabella Station". When the Brunswick and Albany Railroad came through southwest Georgia, the county seat was Isabella, which is located three miles north of the railroad. Slowly, however, the center of trade and commerce shifted south along the railroad. Two other towns, Poulan and Sumner, sprang up along the railroad in Worth County, but it was Isabella Station that grew and prospered the fastest. In 1894, the citizens voted to change the name to "Sylvester". In 1898, Sylvester voted to incorporate and on December 21 of that year the Georgia Legislature agreed to incorporate it as a city.
There have been four courthouses since Worth County was created in 1853. The first was a two-story frame structure on the public square in Isabella, which was then Worth's county seat. This building burned down in 1879, and a schoolhouse was used as a temporary courthouse until a new one could be built in 1893 — but that structure soon burned also. A new courthouse was constructed the following year, but in 1904 the legislature changed the county seat from Isabella to Sylvester.
The next year, a new courthouse was built on Sylvester's public square. In January 1982, the new Worth County courthouse also suffered major fire damage due at the hands of arsonist Max Hufstetler. Hufstetler had been arrested in Worth County for a string of home and church burglaries. He decided that if he burned down the Worth County Courthouse, then the evidence that had been seized during his arrest could not be used against him in court. On January 27, 1982, he committed arson and the Worth County Courthouse was destroyed. Hufstetler was later convicted of arson in the first degree and his conviction was upheld in 1984 on appeal. The courthouse was repaired and the still sits on the public square in Sylvester.
Choose the Ideal Paralegal Program near Sylvester GA
Enrolling in the right paralegal educational program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Sylvester home. Paralegal academic programs are provided in various formats and lengths. Different kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you decide to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to assess each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate education you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Sylvester GA.
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