How to Pick a Paralegal Studies Program near Post Falls Idaho
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Post Falls ID and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you locate the best school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic options are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students begin by looking for schools within driving range of their Post Falls homes. Of those choices, they try to find 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 should consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program ought to be taken into account too. Later in this article we will review a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both fill comparable job positions 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 Post Falls ID lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their daily activities can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and very demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized 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 suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, 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 start your career as a legal assistant in Post Falls ID is by obtaining a certificate, which may take just six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. Once you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Idaho to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
What to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Post Falls ID area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other significant factors to research as well, such as the reputation and accreditation 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 ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Post Falls ID law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some Post Falls ID law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also offer a means for students to start establishing contacts within the Post Falls ID legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Idaho legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary from state to state, it may be advantageous to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Idaho or the state where you want to work after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the area where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to first investigate those schools that are within the Post Falls ID region.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be obtainable 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 Post Falls ID. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these additional costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Post Falls ID, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you choose offers that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Training
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more prevalent and can be a good alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to individuals who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online classes can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Post Falls ID?
If you live near Post Falls ID 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.
Post Falls, Idaho
Post Falls is a city in Kootenai County, Idaho, between Coeur d'Alene and Spokane, Washington. It is both a suburb of Coeur d'Alene, to the east; and a bedroom community to Spokane, to the west. The population was 27,574 at the 2010 census, up from 17,247 in 2000 census, making it Idaho's tenth largest city. The U.S. Census Bureau estimated 2014 population is 30,123.
Post Falls is named after Frederick Post, a German immigrant who constructed a lumber mill along the Spokane River in 1871 on land he purchased from Andrew Seltice, Chief of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe. The purchase of the land is preserved in a pictograph on a granite cliff in Treaty Rock park.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 14.11 square miles (36.54 km2), of which 14.07 square miles (36.44 km2) is land and 0.04 square miles (0.10 km2) is water.
Select the Ideal Paralegal Program near Post Falls ID
Choosing the ideal paralegal degree program is an essential first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Post Falls home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Different kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you decide 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 decision. And with the right education you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Post Falls ID.
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