How to Pick a Paralegal Studies Program near Starkville Mississippi
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Starkville MS and start your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you locate the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic choices are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students start by trying to find paralegal schools within driving distance of their Starkville homes. Of those choices, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be considered also. Later in this post we will cover a list of questions that you ought to ask potential 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 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 essentially both hold comparable job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist lawyers in Starkville MS with a wide variety of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular 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 may assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is typically billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their daily tasks might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a Starkville MS paralegal can be involved and very demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative tasks more suited 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, attorneys are able to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially 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 fastest way to start your career in Starkville MS as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which may require as little as six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Mississippi to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some 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 earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Starkville MS.
Paralegal Online Training
Paralegal online programs have become more popular and can be a good alternative for individuals in Starkville MS looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in greater 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 organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the ideal choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can start the process of assessing Starkville MS area schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial aspects to consider as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Starkville MS law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically available only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the Starkville MS paralegal schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Starkville MS legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing provide internship programs, specifically 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 graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without support. 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 large networks and great relationships with Mississippi legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary from one state to another, it might be a good idea to choose a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you want to work after graduating. Also, it will be important to build relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire 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 first consider those schools that are within your Starkville MS local region.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be available to help offset part of the cost, so don’t forget to check with the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Starkville MS. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, some of these additional costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Starkville MS, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in offers that option. Last, find out what the procedure is for making up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Starkville MS?
Starkville is a city in and the county seat of Oktibbeha County, Mississippi, United States. The Starkville Micropolitan Statistical Area includes all of Oktibbeha County. The population was 23,888 at the 2010 census.
The campus of Mississippi State University is partially located in Starkville. As of the fall of 2011, MSU has over 20,000 undergraduate students, more than 4,000 graduate students, and more than 1,300 staff.
The university is the largest employer in Starkville. Students have created a ready audience for the Magnolia Film Festival. Held every February, it is the oldest film festival in the state. Other major events held in Starkville and strongly supported by the MSU Student Body are the Dudy Gras Parade, Cotton District Arts Festival, Super Bulldog Weekend, Old Main Music Festival, Ragtime and Jazz Music Festival, and Bulldog Bash.
The Starkville area has been inhabited for over 2100 years. Artifacts in the form of clay pot fragments and artwork dating from that time period have been found east of Starkville at the Herman Mound and Village site, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The village site can be accessed from the Indian Mound Campground. The earthwork mounds were made by early Native Americans of moundbuilder cultures as part of their religious and political cosmology.
Select the Best Paralegal Training near Starkville MS
Enrolling in the best paralegal educational program is a crucial first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Starkville home. Paralegal academic programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Different types of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you decide to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to assess each program and make your final decision. And with the right education you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Starkville MS.
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