How to Choose a Paralegal School near Swansea South Carolina
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Swansea SC and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. However, it’s essential that you locate the right school so that you will receive the extensive 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 more and more academic alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students begin by trying to find schools within driving range of their Swansea residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you ought to consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be considered too. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are offered 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 functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Swansea SC attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions 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 the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their day-to-day activities may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, 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 counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Swansea SC is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve just six months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. When you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in South Carolina to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
What to Ask Paralegal Schools
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Swansea SC area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant factors to research as well, including 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 properly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Swansea SC law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Swansea SC law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while attending school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Swansea SC legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with South Carolina legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws differ from state to state, it may be a good idea to select a paralegal school domiciled in South Carolina or the state where you wish to work after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to create relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the area where you wish 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 might need to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Swansea SC area.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be available to help offset part of the expense, so make sure to consult with the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Swansea SC. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate 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 night or weekend classes near Swansea SC, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you enroll in makes available that option. Last, ask what the process is for making up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Schools
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more common and may be a good option for students looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such things 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 training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a respected organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the right choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Swansea SC?
If you live near Swansea SC 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.
Swansea, South Carolina
Swansea is located at 33°44′14″N 81°06′08″W / 33.737090°N 81.102244°W / 33.737090; -81.102244. According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 1.2 square miles (3.1 km2), of which 1.1 square miles (2.9 km2) is land and 0.1 square mile (0.1 km2) (4.20%) is water. Two streams that flow through Swansea are Fourth Creek and Bull Swamp Creek (with neighboring communities Gaston and North).
As of the census of 2000, there were 533 people, 224 households, and 154 families residing in the town. The population density was 469.9 people per square mile (182.1/km2). There were 262 housing units at an average density of 231.0 per square mile (89.5/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 79.22% White, 12.15% African American, 0.75% Asian, 0.38% from other races, and 1.50% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.38% of the population.
There were 224 households out of which 33.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.6% were married couples living together, 24.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.3% were non-families. 29.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.38 and the average family size was 2.92.
Select the Right Legal Assistant Training near Swansea SC
Selecting the best paralegal educational program is a vital first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Swansea home. Paralegal academic programs are provided in various formats and lengths. Various types of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including community and junior 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 opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you decide to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to review each school and make your final selection. And with the ideal training you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Swansea SC.
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