How to Enroll in the Right Legal Assistant School near Picayune Mississippi
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Picayune MS and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you locate the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational choices are becoming available, both at school and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students begin by looking for schools within traveling range of their Picayune homes. 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 need to consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be taken into account as well. Later on in this article we will review a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your decision. But before we do, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold the same job roles and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Picayune MS lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their everyday activities might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially 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 in Picayune MS is by obtaining a certificate, which may take just six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. Once you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Mississippi to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected certifying agencies 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 program (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
What to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Picayune MS area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must find out 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 many potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other critical aspects to think about as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Picayune MS law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are often accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Picayune MS law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also provide a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Picayune MS legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Mississippi legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary from state to state, it might be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school located in Mississippi or the state where you plan to work after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to build relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the area where you desire to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially consider those colleges that are within the Picayune MS region.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost based on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be available to help reduce some of the cost, so be sure to check with the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Picayune MS. Naturally if you choose to attend an online school, some of these additional costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Picayune MS, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you select offers that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making up classes missed because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Schools
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more available and may be a good alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to individuals who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a respected agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the right option for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Picayune MS?
If you live near Picayune Mississippi or perhaps are considering attending classes in that area, following is some interesting and useful information regarding the location of your new school campus.
Picayune (/pɪkəˈjuːn/ pik-ə-YOON) is the largest city in Pearl River County, Mississippi, United States. The population was 10,878 at the 2010 census. Picayune was added to the New Orleans metropolitan area in 2014. The city is located approximately 45 miles (72 km) from New Orleans, Hattiesburg and Gulfport-Biloxi. The Stennis Space Center is 10 miles (16 km) away.
Picayune was incorporated in 1904, purportedly named by Eliza Jane Poitevent Nicholson in 1884
While Picayune received extensive damage from Hurricane Katrina, it was not as severe as in other nearby cities. This has caused it to become the permanent home for many who relocated from the New Orleans area and from the Mississippi Gulf Coast – who were seeking a safer home site with easy commuting to those areas.
How Many Years To Become A Paralegal Picayune MS
Enrolling in the best paralegal studies degree school is an important first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about How Many Years To Become A Paralegal. But as we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Picayune residence. Paralegal academic programs are made available in various lengths and formats. Several kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you choose to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to assess each program and make your final selection. And with the right education you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Picayune MS.
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