How to Pick a Paralegal Certificate Program near Fayetteville Georgia
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Fayetteville GA and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it’s essential that you find the ideal school so that you will get 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 options are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students begin by trying to find schools within traveling distance of their Fayetteville residences. Of those choices, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school should be taken into account as well. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your choice. But first, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational options that are available to earn a paralegal certificate or degree.
Georgia Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both fill comparable job positions and responsibilities, only 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 legal assistants and paralegals help Fayetteville GA lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is normally billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but some of their everyday activities can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be involved and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for Fayetteville GA lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a legal assistant is by earning a certificate, which can involve just six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at many Fayetteville GA area community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and earn a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Georgia to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 Fayetteville GA area program (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Training
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more common in Fayetteville GA and may be an excellent option for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online classes can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable organization, for example 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 right option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at Fayetteville GA area community and junior colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must learn 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 also. If you are like many 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 think about also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Fayetteville GA law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the Georgia paralegal programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since Fayetteville GA employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some 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 outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law office or other Fayetteville GA legal operation while attending school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start creating contacts within the legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Fayetteville GA legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it may be a good idea to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Georgia or the state where you plan to work after graduation. Also, it will be important to establish relationships in the neighboring Fayetteville GA legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the area where you choose to practice. 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 need to initially investigate those schools that are within your local area.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost based on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be available to help minimize some of the expense, so don’t forget to consult with the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Fayetteville GA. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these added expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while getting their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Fayetteville GA, 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 makes available that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making-up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Legal Assistant School near Fayetteville GA
Selecting the best paralegal degree program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Fayetteville residence. Paralegal training programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Several kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you decide to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to examine each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the right training you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Fayetteville GA.
More About Fayetteville Georgia
Fayetteville is a city in Fayette County, Georgia, United States. As of the 2010 census, the city had a population of 15,945, up from 11,148 at the 2000 census. The city is the county seat of Fayette County. Fayetteville is located 22 miles (35 km) south of downtown Atlanta.
In 2015 the small majority-white city elected its first African-American mayor, Edward Johnson, a retired US navy commander and pastor. In 2011 he was elected as the first black city council member. He was a three-term president of the NAACP.
Fayetteville was founded in 1822 as the seat of the newly formed Fayette County, organized by European Americans from territory ceded by force the Creek people under a treaty with the United States during the early period of Indian removal from the Southeast. Both city and county were named in honor of the Revolutionary War hero the French Marquis de Lafayette. Fayetteville was incorporated as a town in 1823 and as a city in 1909.
The area was developed for cotton plantations, with labor provided by enslaved African Americans, who for more than a century comprised the majority of the county's population. Fayetteville became the trading town for the agricultural area.
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