How to Pick a Paralegal School near Springfield South Carolina
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Springfield SC and start your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you locate the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic choices are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students start by searching for schools within traveling range of their Springfield homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you need to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program should be considered also. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your decision. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill the same job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Springfield SC lawyers with a wide range of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with trial logistics 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 perform with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard 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 daily activities might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complex and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Springfield SC is by earning a certificate, which may involve as little as 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. When you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and obtain a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in South Carolina 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 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Points to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Springfield SC area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other significant issues to think about also, for instance accreditation and the reputation 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 ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Springfield SC law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically available only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as 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 Springfield SC law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Springfield SC legal field. 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 upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with South Carolina legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Because laws differ from state to state, it might be a good idea to choose a paralegal school located in South Carolina 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 through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially investigate those schools that are within the Springfield SC region.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be accessible to help reduce some of the cost, so make sure to consult with the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Springfield SC. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online school, some of these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Springfield SC, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you enroll in offers that option. Finally, find out what the process is for making-up classes missed due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Programs
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more prevalent and may be an excellent option for those looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to those who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online classes can sometimes be less costly 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 schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Springfield SC?
If you live near Springfield 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.
Springfield, South Carolina
As of the census of 2000, there were 504 people, 228 households, and 152 families residing in the town. The population density was 322.8 people per square mile (124.7/km²). There were 263 housing units at an average density of 168.4 per square mile (65.1/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 69.84% White, 29.37% African American, 0.60% Native American and 0.20% Asian. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.79% of the population.
There were 228 households out of which 22.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 46.1% were married couples living together, 18.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.3% were non-families. 31.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 20.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.21 and the average family size was 2.74.
In the town, the population was spread out with 20.2% under the age of 18, 7.3% from 18 to 24, 22.4% from 25 to 44, 26.8% from 45 to 64, and 23.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 45 years. For every 100 females, there were 83.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 74.8 males.
Choose the Ideal Legal Assistant Certificate Program near Springfield SC
Selecting the ideal paralegal educational program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Springfield home. Paralegal training programs are provided in numerous formats and lengths. Several kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you decide to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to assess each program and make your final selection. And with the appropriate training you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Springfield SC.
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