How to Select a Paralegal Studies Program near Quitman Mississippi
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Quitman MS and start your journey that will result in a fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you find the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational choices are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students begin by looking for schools within commuting distance of their Quitman homes. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be taken into consideration as well. Later on in this post we will review a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your choice. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold the same job positions and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Quitman MS lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular 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 delivering documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their everyday activities might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers get ready 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 complex and very demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to start your career as a paralegal in Quitman MS is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve just 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. After you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Mississippi to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few of the highly regarded certifying organizations 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 school (we will discuss 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.
Points to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Quitman MS 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 particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many 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 as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should 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 focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Quitman MS law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Quitman MS law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while attending school. They can also present a means for students to begin creating contacts within the Quitman MS legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Mississippi legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it might be advantageous to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Mississippi or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the area where you want to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Quitman MS area.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be accessible to help minimize some of the cost, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid office to find out what is available in Quitman MS. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these additional expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Quitman MS, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you choose offers that option. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making-up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Schools
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more available and may be a good alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to individuals who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the right choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Quitman MS?
If you live near Quitman MS 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.
Quitman was established in 1839. During the Civil War, a hospital built with funds raised in Galveston and Houston, among other places, was built there for the care of Confederate soldiers from Texas. Originally staffed by Dr. Louis Bryan with supplies purchased in Mexico, he was joined, and later supplanted, by Dr. Enos Bonney, a surgeon from Enterprise, Mississippi. Though it cared for troops from any state, the hospital was colloquially known as "The Texas Hospital." Wounded soldiers from the battles of Corinth, Iuka, Jackson, and more local engagements, as well as those suffering from wartime diseases, were treated at the hospital. A cemetery was established adjacent to the hospital for those who succumbed to disease or wounds.
During General Sherman's Meridian Campaign, Brigadier General Walter Q. Gresham, Commander of the Third Brigade, Fourth Division, 17th Army Corps, was detached and sent to Quitman to destroy bridges crossing the Chickasawhay river and as through Alligator Swamp, as well as any other infrastructure that could be of any use to the Confederacy. The force arrived at Quitman and proceeded to burn the town jail, courthouse, various stores, the railroad depot, and the Methodist Church, which was being used as a hospital. Troops then burned down the entire Texas Hospital complex, which included two main buildings as well as twelve to fifteen barracks. The hospital was never rebuilt.
Quitman is located near the center of Clarke County at 32°2′35″N 88°43′15″W / 32.04306°N 88.72083°W / 32.04306; -88.72083 (32.043004, -88.720867).U.S. Route 45, a four-lane divided highway, bypasses the city to the east and leads north to Meridian and south to Waynesboro. Mississippi Highway 18 passes through the center of the city, departing south from the town but then turning northwest to Pachuta and Interstate 59, and leading east to the Alabama border. Mississippi Highway 145 represents the old alignment of US 45 and intersects Highway 18 in the center of town.
Select the Ideal Paralegal Program near Quitman MS
Choosing the best paralegal training program is an important 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 Quitman residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in various lengths and formats. Several types of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you decide to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to review each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate education you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Quitman MS.
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