How to Select a Paralegal School near West Cornwall Connecticut
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near West Cornwall CT and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you find the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students start by trying to find schools within commuting range of their West Cornwall residences. Of those options, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you ought to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program ought to be considered too. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your decision. But before we do, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold comparable job roles and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help West Cornwall CT lawyers with a wide range of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their daily activities might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a paralegal in West Cornwall CT is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve just 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. When you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and earn a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Connecticut to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded certifying organizations 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Things to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the West Cornwall CT area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of potential 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 aspects to research also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. 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 also. A number of West Cornwall CT law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including 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 West Cornwall CT law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even if 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 give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the West Cornwall CT legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Connecticut legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it might be beneficial to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Connecticut or the state where you wish to work after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the community where you desire to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to first investigate those colleges that are within the West Cornwall CT region.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be available to help offset part of the cost, so be sure to talk to the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in West Cornwall CT. Naturally if you choose to attend an online school, some of these additional expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while getting their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near West Cornwall CT, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you select offers that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making-up classes missed because of work, illness or family obligations.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Programs
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more common and can be an excellent alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to individuals who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable organization, for instance 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 could be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near West Cornwall CT?
If you live near West Cornwall CT 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.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 46.3 square miles (120 km2), of which, 46.0 square miles (119 km2) of it is land and 0.2 square miles (0.52 km2) of it (0.54%) is water. The town is located on the east bank of the Housatonic River and also contains a major portion of the Mohawk State Forest.
As of the census of 2000, there were 1,434 people, 615 households, and 389 families residing in the town. The population density was 31.2 people per square mile (12.0/km²). There were 873 housing units at an average density of 19.0 per square mile (7.3/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 97.49% White, 0.21% African American, 0.70% Asian, 0.21% from other races, and 1.39% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.46% of the population.
There were 615 households out of which 29.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 52.5% were married couples living together, 8.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.6% were non-families. 30.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.33 and the average family size was 2.93.
Choose the Best Legal Assistant College near West Cornwall CT
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal training program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your West Cornwall home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in various formats and lengths. Various types of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you elect to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to assess each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal education you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in West Cornwall CT.
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