How to Select a Paralegal Studies Program near Townsend Tennessee
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Townsend TN and start your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. However, it’s essential that you find the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students begin by searching for schools within driving distance of their Townsend homes. Of those choices, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you need to consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be taken into account also. Later on in this article we will review a list of questions that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every 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 available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both fill comparable job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Townsend TN lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is normally billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but some of their day-to-day tasks might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Townsend TN is by obtaining a certificate, which can take as little as six months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and can be earned at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Tennessee to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some 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 program (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Points to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Townsend TN area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must find out 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 also. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other critical aspects to research as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency 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 targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Townsend TN law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no previous work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking 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 call some Townsend TN law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the Townsend TN legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Tennessee legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws differ from one state to another, it may be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school located in Tennessee or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be important to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to initially look at those schools that are within the Townsend TN area.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential received and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be available to help minimize some of the expense, so be sure to talk to the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Townsend TN. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, some of these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Townsend TN, make sure classes are offered 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 protocol is for making up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Programs
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more available and can be an excellent option for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online schools can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a reputable organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Townsend TN?
If you live near Townsend TN 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.
Townsend is a city in Blount County, Tennessee, in the southeastern United States. The population was 244 at the 2000 census and 448 at the 2010 census. For thousands of years a site of Native American occupation by varying cultures, Townsend is one of three "gateways" to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It has several museums and attractions relating to the natural and human history of the Great Smokies.
Identifying as "The Peaceful Side of the Smokies," Townsend has the least traffic of the three main entrances to the national park. The park's other two entrances— one just south of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and the other just north of Cherokee, North Carolina— are home to multiple commercial attractions that draw millions of tourists annually. Townsend is low-key, with a handful of inexpensive restaurants and motels and several businesses geared toward outdoor sports, and a world-renowned horse show.
Native Americans were the first inhabitants of Tuckaleechee Cove on the Little River; the oldest archaeological finds in the cove date to 2000 B.C. A number of pottery fragments and ax heads dating to the Woodland period have also been found. By 1200 A.D., Tuckaleechee's Native American inhabitants had built a fortified village near the cove's northern entrance.
Choose the Right Legal Assistant Certificate Program near Townsend TN
Selecting the ideal paralegal training program is an important first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Townsend home. Paralegal education programs are made available in numerous formats and lengths. Several types of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, 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 schools, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you decide to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to evaluate each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate training you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Townsend TN.
Other Tennessee Locations That May Be Of Interest
Business Results 1 - 10 of 8