How to Pick a Paralegal Program near Waycross Georgia
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Waycross GA and begin your journey that will lead to a fulfilling career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you locate the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational options are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students start by looking for schools within driving distance of their Waycross residences. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be taken into account also. Later on in this article we will cover a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your selection. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both hold the same job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Waycross GA attorneys with a diverse array of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their routine tasks may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a paralegal in Waycross GA is by earning a certificate, which may take as little as six months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Georgia to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some 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 paralegal degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Points to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Waycross GA area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to know 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 many prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant factors to think about also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Waycross GA law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Waycross GA law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. 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 Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also present a means for students to start developing contacts within the Waycross GA legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Georgia legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ from one state to another, it might be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school located in Georgia or the state where you wish to work after graduating. In addition, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the area where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to first consider those colleges that are within the Waycross GA area.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. Having said that, 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 may be obtainable to help offset some of the expense, so make sure to consult with the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Waycross GA. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Waycross GA, verify classes are available at those times. Also, 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 process is for making up classes missed because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Classes
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more available and may be a good alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to individuals who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Waycross GA?
If you live near Waycross GA or perhaps you are considering attending classes in that area, following is some interesting and useful information regarding the location of your new school campus.
Waycross includes two historic districts (Downtown Waycross Historic District and Waycross Historic District) and several other properties that are on the National Register of Historic Places, including the U.S. Post Office and Courthouse, Lott Cemetery, the First African Baptist Church and Parsonage, and the Obediah Barber Homestead (which is seven miles south of the city).
The area now known as Waycross was first settled circa 1820, locally known as "Old Nine" or "Number Nine" and then Pendleton. It was renamed Tebeauville in 1857, incorporated under that name in 1866, and designated county seat of Ware County in 1873. It was incorporated as "Way Cross" on March 3, 1874. Waycross gets its name from the city’s location at key railroad junctions; lines from six directions meet at the city.
Waycross was home to Laura S. Walker (1861-1955) a noted author and conservationist. Walker promoted a comprehensive program of forestry activity, including the establishment of forest parks. She erected markers and monuments along old trails and at historic sites, in Waycross and Ware County so that local history would not be forgotten. An effort to recognize her work culminated in President Franklin D Roosevelt issuing a proclamation to establish the Laura S Walker National Park in her honor. She was the only living person for whom a state or national park was named. In 1937, the federal government purchased distressed farmland for the park. Work on the park was undertaken by the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps. In 1941, the national park was deeded over to Georgia, becoming the State's 13th state park.
Choose the Right Legal Assistant Degree Program near Waycross GA
Choosing the right paralegal educational program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Waycross home. Paralegal education programs are made available in many lengths and formats. Different types of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you decide to receive 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 ultimate selection. And with the right training you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Waycross GA.
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