How to Choose a Paralegal Certificate Program near Prentiss Mississippi
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Prentiss MS and start your journey that will result in a satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you find the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic choices are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students begin by looking for schools within commuting distance of their Prentiss residences. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program must be taken into account also. Later in this article we will review a list of concerns that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your decision. But first, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both hold comparable job roles 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 different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Prentiss MS attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their day-to-day tasks can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Prentiss MS is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve just 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more expansive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. When you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and earn a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Mississippi to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Prentiss MS area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must find out 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 the majority of prospective 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 crucial aspects to research also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose need to be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Prentiss MS law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Prentiss MS law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also offer a means for students to start creating contacts within the Prentiss MS legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are evaluating provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging 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 substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws differ among states, it may be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Mississippi or the state where you wish to work after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to create relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to first consider those schools that are within the Prentiss MS area.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost depending on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be obtainable to help offset some of the expense, so be sure to contact the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Prentiss MS. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online school, some of these added expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while receiving their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Prentiss MS, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you choose makes available that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making-up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Training
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more common and may be a good option for those searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to students who keep working while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Prentiss MS?
If you live near Prentiss 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.
Prentiss, Jefferson Davis County, Mississippi
A depot was established in Blountville when the Pearl & Leaf Rivers Railroad (later Illinois Central Railroad) was completed in 1903. That same year the town was officially established and named "Prentiss", possibly after Seargent Smith Prentiss, a member of the Mississippi House of Representatives and U.S. Representative from Mississippi, or after Prentiss Webb Berry, a prominent landowner in the area. When Jefferson Davis County was created in 1906, a special election determined that Prentiss would serve as the county seat.
In 1907, Jonas Edward Johnson and his wife Bertha LaBranche Johnson established the Prentiss Institute. Situated on 40 acres (16 ha) of land, with remnants of slave quarters on the property, it was considered one of the finest schools for African Americans in Mississippi. The school at first taught only the elementary grades, and began with 40 students whose tuition was often paid with chickens, eggs and produce. A Rosenwald classroom was built on the campus in 1926, and by 1953 the "Prentiss Normal and Industrial Institute" included a high school and junior college, had 44 faculty and more than 700 students, and included 24 buildings and 400 acres (160 ha) of farmland, pasture and forest. In 1955, Heifer International donated 15 pure-bred cows to the school with the intention that the offspring be donated to needy farm families. It is noteworthy that the school gave some of the animals to poor white families. The school closed in 1989 and was designated an official Mississippi landmark in 2002.
As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 1,081 people residing in the town. 60.3% were White, 37.3% African American, 0.6% Native American, 0.4% Asian, 0.5% from some other race and 0.9% of two or more races. 0.6% were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
Find the Right Paralegal Degree Program near Prentiss MS
Selecting the right paralegal training program is a vital first step to guarantee 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 Prentiss residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Several types of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you choose to obtain your education 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 final selection. And with the ideal education you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Prentiss MS.
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