How to Choose a Paralegal Degree Program near Sulphur Louisiana
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Sulphur LA and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive 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 choices are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students start by looking for paralegal schools within traveling range of their Sulphur residences. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program should be considered also. Later in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your decision. But first, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill comparable job positions and responsibilities, just 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 category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help lawyers in Sulphur LA with a wide variety of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their everyday tasks may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a Sulphur LA paralegal can be involved and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, 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 launch your career in Sulphur LA as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which may take just six months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. Once you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Louisiana to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Sulphur LA.
Paralegal Online Programs
Online paralegal programs have become more popular and can be an excellent alternative for those in Sulphur LA looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online schools can often be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional environment, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the ideal choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing Sulphur LA area schools. But because there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important aspects to think about as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Sulphur LA law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually available only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the Sulphur LA paralegal schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession 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 reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also present a means for students to start establishing contacts within the Sulphur LA legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Louisiana legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws differ from one state to another, it may be a good idea to select a paralegal school located in the state where you plan to work after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire 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 wish to first consider those colleges that are within your Sulphur LA local region.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be available to help minimize part of the expense, so be sure to talk to the school’s financial aid office to find out what is available in Sulphur LA. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these added costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Sulphur LA, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in provides that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Sulphur LA?
Sulphur is named for the sulfur mines that were operated in the area in the 1900s. In 1867, Professor Eugene W. Hilgard, an experienced geologist who was prospecting for oil and other minerals, conducted exploratory borings in Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana and discovered sulfur in the caprock of a salt dome. However, the sulfur was beneath several hundred feet of muck and quicksand containing deadly hydrogen sulfide gas, which made mining extremely hazardous. Repeated unsuccessful attempts to sink conventional mining shafts in the 1870s and 1880s resulted in the loss of many lives.
In 1890, the German immigrant Herman Frasch invented and patented the Frasch Process of mining sulfur, using concentric pipes to pump superheated water into the ground, liquefy the mineral, and force the liquid to the surface with compressed air. The first molten sulfur was brought to the surface on Christmas Eve of 1894. Sulfur soon began to be mined on an industrial scale, with the molten mineral allowed to solidify and dry in enormous vats 100 by 400 feet, then blasted and hauled by rail to the Sabine River for shipment. Frasch's invention greatly facilitated sulfur mining, and the Union Sulphur Company, a joint venture of Dr. Frasch and the American Sulphur Company that owned the land, sparked a period of booming growth in the decades that followed. The elementary school on South Huntington Street in downtown Sulphur is named after Frasch.
With the addition of the Cities Service (Citgo) oil refinery in 1943, the areas of Maplewood and Hollywood were developed to house refinery workers. The Sulphur area is still mostly dependent on the oil refineries and petrochemical plants for employment.
Sulphur is located near the center of Calcasieu Parish. The city lies on Interstate 10 between the towns of Vinton and Westlake, approximately 20 miles (32 km) east of the Texas border. The city of Lake Charles is 9 miles (14 km) to the east. U.S. Route 90 passes through the center of Sulphur as Napoleon Street. Access from I-10 is via exits 20, 21, 23, and 26. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 10.0 square miles (25.9 km2), all land.
Enroll in the Best Paralegal Degree Program near Sulphur LA
Selecting the right paralegal educational program is an important first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Sulphur home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Different kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you elect to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to review each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate education you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Sulphur LA.
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