How to Choose a Paralegal Degree Program near Lithia Springs Georgia
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Lithia Springs GA and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably 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. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students start by trying to find schools within commuting range of their Lithia Springs homes. Of those choices, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program must be taken into consideration too. Later in this post 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 first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic options that are available to earn a paralegal certificate or degree.
Georgia Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both fill the same job roles and functions, only 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 Lithia Springs GA attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their regular activities might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for Lithia Springs GA lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a legal assistant is by earning a certificate, which may involve just six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and may be earned at numerous Lithia Springs GA area community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. Once you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may want to proceed and get 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 establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected 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 Lithia Springs GA area school (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Schools
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more common in Lithia Springs GA and can be an excellent alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to individuals who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a reputable organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the right choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs available at Lithia Springs GA area junior and community colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important issues to think about also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can 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 standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Lithia Springs GA law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the Georgia paralegal programs you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since Lithia Springs GA employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other Lithia Springs GA legal enterprise while attending school. They can also provide an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Lithia Springs GA legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it may be a good idea to choose a legal assistant school located in Georgia or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be important to develop relationships in the local Lithia Springs GA legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the area where you choose to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to initially investigate those colleges that are within your local area.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don’t forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be available to help reduce part of the expense, so make sure to talk to the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Lithia Springs GA. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, some of these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Lithia Springs GA, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you choose provides that option. Last, find out what the process is for making-up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Ideal Legal Assistant School near Lithia Springs GA
Choosing the right paralegal educational program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Lithia Springs home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in various formats and lengths. Several types of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you decide to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to review each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal education you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Lithia Springs GA.
More About Lithia Springs Georgia
Lithia Springs, Georgia
Lithia Springs is a census-designated place and unincorporated area, formerly incorporated as a city, located in northeastern Douglas County, Georgia, United States. As of the 2010 census, the community had a population of 15,491. The area is named for its historic "lithia" mineral water springs.
Incorporated in 1882, Lithia Springs was dissolved the first time in 1933. Lithia Springs became incorporated again in 1994, to be Douglas County's second completely internal municipality, but disincorporated again in 2001.
In 2001, the citizens voted (80% yea, 20% nay) on March 20 to dissolve the city charter and de-incorporate the city, transferring all assets to the county. The referendum that ended the town was part of the settlement in a lawsuit brought by city residents charging the city should be dissolved because it did not deliver enough services to justify its existence under state law. During its incorporation until 2001, the former city had five mayors.
The history of the community begins with Lithia Springs, a natural lithia water spring. So popular were the curative waters that flowed from Lithia Springs that people came for miles to drink it. The neighboring city of Austell was also founded due to the spring's popularity.
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