How to Pick a Paralegal Training Program near Richland South Carolina
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Richland SC and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you locate the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational options are being offered, both at school and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students start by trying to find paralegal schools within commuting distance of their Richland residences. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school must be considered also. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your selection. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic options 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 responsibilities, just 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 help attorneys in Richland SC with a wide range of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day tasks may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a Richland SC paralegal can be involved and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career in Richland SC as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which can require just six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in South Carolina to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some of the highly regarded certifying organizations in the field 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 advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Richland SC.
Paralegal Online Degrees
Online paralegal programs have become more common and may be a good option for those in Richland SC looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to individuals who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online programs can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a reputable agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal environment, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the ideal choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating Richland SC area schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant factors to think about also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also obtain 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 quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Richland SC law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the Richland SC paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while still in school. They can also present a means for students to begin creating contacts within the Richland SC legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without support. 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 sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with South Carolina legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it may be advantageous to choose a paralegal school located in the state where you plan to work after graduation. In addition, it will be important to develop relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the area where you choose 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 might want to initially consider those schools that are within your Richland SC local region.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be obtainable to help offset part of the cost, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid office to find out what is available in Richland SC. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these added costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Richland SC, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you select makes available that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making up classes missed because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Richland SC?
Richland County, South Carolina
Richland County is located in the U.S. state of South Carolina. As of the 2016 census estimate, the population was 409,549, making it the second-most populous county in South Carolina, behind only Greenville County. The county seat and largest city is Columbia, the state capital. The county was founded in 1785.
Richland County was probably named for its "rich land." The county was formed in 1785 as part of the large Camden District. A small part of Richland later went to adjacent Kershaw County in 1791. The county seat and largest city is Columbia, which is also the state capital. In 1786 the state legislature decided to move the capital from Charleston to a more central location. A site was chosen in Richland County, which is in the geographic center of the state, and a new town was laid out. Richland County’s boundaries were formally incorporated on Dec. 18, 1799. Cotton from the surrounding plantations was shipped through Columbia and later manufactured into textiles there. General William T. Sherman captured Columbia during the Civil War, and his troops burned the town and parts of the county on February 17, 1865. The U. S. Army returned on more friendly terms in 1917, when Fort Jackson was established, which is now the largest and most active Initial Entry Training Center in the U.S. Army. The South Carolina State House is located in downtown Columbia.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 772 square miles (2,000 km2), of which 757 square miles (1,960 km2) is land and 15 square miles (39 km2) (1.9%) is water. Richland County is situated in the center of South Carolina.
As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 384,504 people, 145,194 households, and 89,357 families residing in the county. The population density was 507.9 inhabitants per square mile (196.1/km2). There were 161,725 housing units at an average density of 213.6 per square mile (82.5/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 47.3% white, 45.9% black or African American, 2.2% Asian, 0.3% American Indian, 0.1% Pacific islander, 1.9% from other races, and 2.2% from two or more races. Those of Hispanic or Latino origin made up 4.8% of the population. In terms of ancestry, 9.6% were German, 8.6% were English, 7.6% were Irish, and 7.1% were American.
Choose the Ideal Paralegal Program near Richland SC
Choosing the right paralegal degree program is a vital first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Richland residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in many formats and lengths. Different types of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including community and junior 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 profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you choose to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to examine each school and make your final decision. And with the appropriate training you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Richland SC.
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