How to Choose a Paralegal Program near Woodland Park Colorado
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Woodland Park CO and start your journey that will lead to a fulfilling career in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you find the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic choices are being offered, both at school and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students start by looking for schools within driving range of their Woodland Park residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable 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 like the reputation and accreditation of the program should be taken into account as well. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold comparable job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Woodland Park CO lawyers with a wide range of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. As an 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 usually billed hourly 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 noted, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day activities can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is give 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 main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially 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 quickest means to begin your career as a paralegal in Woodland Park CO is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve just 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. When you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and earn a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Colorado to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Points to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Woodland Park CO area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other crucial issues to consider as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Woodland Park CO law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some Woodland Park CO law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Woodland Park CO legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Colorado legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it may be a good idea to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Colorado or the state where you want to work after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially look at those colleges that are within the Woodland Park CO region.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost based on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don’t forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be obtainable to help minimize some of the expense, so don’t forget to consult with the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Woodland Park CO. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, some of these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Woodland Park CO, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you enroll in provides that option. Last, inquire what the protocol is for making-up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Programs
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more common and may be a good option for those searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to individuals who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a reputable agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Woodland Park CO?
If you live near Woodland Park CO 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.
Woodland Park, Colorado
The City of Woodland Park is a Home Rule Municipality that is the most populous city in Teller County, Colorado, United States and is immediately west of El Paso County and the unincorporated community of Crystola. Many residents in this bedroom community, which is surrounded by the one-million acre (4,000 km²) Pike National Forest, make the 17-mile (27 km) commute to Colorado Springs. Ute Pass lies 12 miles (19 km) to the west of Woodland Park on US 24. The population was 6,515 at the 2000 census. Nearby Douglas County is about a fifteen-minute drive from the city.
As of the census of 2000, there were 6,515 people, 2,476 households, and 1,884 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,151.0 people per square mile (444.4/km²). There were 2,642 housing units at an average density of 466.8 per square mile (180.2/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 94.89% White, 0.52% African American, 0.72% Native American, 0.87% Asian, 0.81% from other races, and 2.18% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.45% of the population.
There were 2,476 households out of which 39.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 65.3% were married couples living together, 7.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 23.9% were non-families. 19.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 4.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.63 and the average family size was 3.03.
Select the Right Legal Assistant School near Woodland Park CO
Choosing the ideal paralegal training program is a crucial first step toward your success in the gratifying 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 Woodland Park home. Paralegal academic programs are provided in various lengths and formats. Different types of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you elect to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your final decision. And with the right training you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Woodland Park CO.
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