How to Choose a Paralegal Studies Program near Tifton Georgia
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Tifton GA and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you find the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students start by searching for schools within traveling distance of their Tifton homes. Of those choices, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school must be taken into consideration too. Later in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your decision. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill the same job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Tifton GA lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day tasks might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative tasks more applicable 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, attorneys are able to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually 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 fastest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Tifton GA is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve as little as 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Georgia to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected 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 paralegal certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
What to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Tifton GA area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true if 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 looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important aspects to consider also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Tifton GA law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no previous experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Tifton GA law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while attending school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the Tifton GA legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Georgia legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ from state to state, it might be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school located in Georgia or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to build relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to first investigate those schools that are within the Tifton GA region.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential earned and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don’t forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be available to help minimize part of the cost, so don’t forget to contact the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Tifton GA. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online school, some of these added expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Tifton GA, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you choose makes available that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Programs
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more prevalent and may be an excellent option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to individuals who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a reputable organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Tifton GA?
If you live near Tifton 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.
The area's public schools are administered by the Tift County School District, including two high schools. Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College has its main campus in Tifton. Southern Regional Technical College and the University of Georgia also have Tifton campuses.
Sites in the area include the Coastal Plain Research Arboretum, Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, and the Georgia Museum of Agriculture & Historic Village. The Tifton Residential Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Tifton Gazette is published three days a week in Tifton.
Tifton is located in south central Georgia along Interstate 75, which runs north to south through the city, leading north 167 mi (269 km) to Atlanta and south 45 mi (72 km) to Valdosta. Other highways that pass through the city include U.S. Route 41, U.S. Route 82, U.S. Route 319, and Georgia State Route 125.
Enroll in the Right Paralegal Training near Tifton GA
Selecting the right paralegal degree program is an essential first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Tifton home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Various kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you decide to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to evaluate each school and make your final selection. And with the ideal education you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Tifton GA.
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