How to Pick a Paralegal College near Sweetwater Tennessee
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Sweetwater TN and start your journey that will lead to a fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you find the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational choices are being offered, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students start by looking for schools within commuting distance of their Sweetwater residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school should be taken into consideration as well. Later on in this post we will review a list of questions that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your selection. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are available to earn a paralegal certificate or degree.
Tennessee Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both fill comparable job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Sweetwater TN attorneys with a wide variety of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist 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 attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their day-to-day tasks might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers 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 demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for Sweetwater TN attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, 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 way to start your career as a legal assistant is by earning a certificate, which can take just six months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be obtained at many Sweetwater TN area community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. Once you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to continue and obtain a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Tennessee to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few 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 degree or certificate from an accredited Sweetwater TN area program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Classes
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more common in Sweetwater TN and can be a good alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online programs can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a respected organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the right option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at Sweetwater TN area community and junior colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant issues to research as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Sweetwater TN law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the Tennessee paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since Sweetwater TN employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other Sweetwater TN legal establishment while still in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Sweetwater TN legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary among states, it might be advantageous to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Tennessee or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. Also, it will be important to create relationships in the neighboring Sweetwater TN legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the area where you desire to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to first investigate those schools that are within your local region.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be obtainable to help offset part of the expense, so don’t forget to check with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Sweetwater TN. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, some of these added expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Sweetwater TN, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select provides that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making-up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Best Legal Assistant College near Sweetwater TN
Choosing the ideal paralegal degree program is a vital first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Sweetwater home. Paralegal education programs are made available in many formats and lengths. Various types of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you choose to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to assess each school and make your final decision. And with the right training you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Sweetwater TN.
More About Sweetwater Tennessee
Sweetwater is a city in Monroe and McMinn counties in the U.S. state of Tennessee, and the most populous city in Monroe County. The population was 5,586 at the 2000 census and 5,764 at the 2010 census. Sweetwater is the home of the Craighead Caverns which contains the Lost Sea, the United States' largest underground lake.
Sweetwater was established in the 1850s on a series of lots sold by Isaac Lenoir (1807–1875), a local politician and son of the founder of Lenoir City (located a few miles to the northeast in Loudon County). Sweetwater was officially incorporated in 1875.
Sweetwater is located at 35°36′9″N 84°28′1″W / 35.60250°N 84.46694°W / 35.60250; -84.46694 (35.602604, -84.466992). The city lies along Sweetwater Creek, which flows northeast for several miles before emptying into the Watts Bar Lake impoundment of the Tennessee River. The creek's drainage has created a lowland area known as Sweetwater Valley, which is surrounded by low hills.
As of the census of 2000, there were 5,586 people, 2,315 households, and 1,537 families residing in the city. The population density was 810.1 people per square mile (312.6/km²). There were 2,511 housing units at an average density of 364.2 per square mile (140.5/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 89.72% White, 7.32% African American, 0.14% Native American, 0.91% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.41% from other races, and 1.47% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.95% of the population.
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