How to Select a Paralegal Studies Program near Simpsonville South Carolina
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Simpsonville SC and begin your journey that will lead to a fulfilling profession in legal services. However, it’s important that you locate the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic choices are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students begin by searching for schools within commuting distance of their Simpsonville homes. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be considered also. Later on in this post we will cover a list of questions that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your selection. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational 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 the same job positions and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Simpsonville SC lawyers with a wide range of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is typically billed hourly 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 responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but some of their daily tasks might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching related cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and very demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger number 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 arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career as a paralegal in Simpsonville SC is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve as little as six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more comprehensive 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. After you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might 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 increase your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded certifying agencies in the field 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 2 essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Simpsonville SC area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree 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 critical issues to think about as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also receive 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 future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Simpsonville SC law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Simpsonville SC law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Simpsonville SC legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are evaluating provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with South Carolina legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Because laws differ from one state to another, it may be advantageous to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in South Carolina or the state where you wish to work after graduating. In addition, it will be important to establish relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the area where you desire to practice. 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 look at those colleges that are within the Simpsonville SC area.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential earned and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be available to help reduce some of the cost, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Simpsonville SC. Of course if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these added costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Simpsonville SC, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you choose provides that option. Last, ask what the process is for making up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Schools
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more common and can be a good option for those looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a reputable organization, for instance 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 might be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Simpsonville SC?
If you live near Simpsonville 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.
Simpsonville, South Carolina
Simpsonville is a city in Greenville County, South Carolina, United States. It is part of the Greenville–Mauldin–Easley Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population was 18,238 at the 2010 census, up from 14,352 in 2000. The population had risen to an estimated 20,736 as of 2015. Simpsonville is part of the "Golden Strip", along with Mauldin and Fountain Inn, an area which is noted for having low unemployment due to a diversity of industries including Para-Chem, Kemet, Sealed Air and Milliken.
Simpsonville is located in southeastern Greenville County at 34°44′0″N 82°15′36″W / 34.73333°N 82.26000°W / 34.73333; -82.26000 (34.733375, -82.260001), between Mauldin to the northwest and Fountain Inn to the southeast. The center of town has an elevation of 866 feet (264 m) above sea level.
South Carolina Highway 14 runs through the center of Simpsonville as Main Street, leading north 16 miles (26 km) to Greer and southeast 5 miles (8 km) to the center of Fountain Inn. The center of Mauldin is 4.5 miles (7.2 km) to the northwest via South Carolina Highway 417. Interstate 385 passes through Simpsonville west of the city center, with access from Exits 26 through 29. I-385 leads northwest 14 miles (23 km) to the center of Greenville and southeast 28 miles (45 km) to Interstate 26 near Clinton. Columbia, the state capital, is 89 miles (143 km) southeast of Simpsonville.
Choose the Ideal Legal Assistant Certificate Program near Simpsonville SC
Choosing the ideal paralegal training program is an essential first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Simpsonville home. Paralegal education programs are offered in various lengths and formats. Several types of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you elect to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the right education you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Simpsonville SC.
Other South Carolina Locations That May Be Of Interest
Business Results 1 - 10 of 6