How to Select a Paralegal Studies Program near Westbrook Connecticut
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Westbrook CT and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you find the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic options are becoming available, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students begin by looking for schools within commuting distance of their Westbrook homes. Of those choices, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be considered as well. Later in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your selection. But first, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both hold comparable job roles and functions, just 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 paralegals and legal assistants help Westbrook CT attorneys with a diverse array of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is normally billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their daily activities may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be involved and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, 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 requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Westbrook CT is by earning a certificate, which may take just six months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. When you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Connecticut to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some 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 advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Points to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Westbrook CT area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other critical issues to think about also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Westbrook CT law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, 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 contact some Westbrook CT law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could 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 operation while remaining in school. They can also present a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Westbrook CT legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Connecticut legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary from state to state, it might be beneficial to select a legal assistant school located in Connecticut or the state where you wish to work after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to initially look at those schools that are within the Westbrook CT area.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential received and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be available to help minimize part of the cost, so make sure to check with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Westbrook CT. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, some of these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Westbrook CT, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you select makes available that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making-up classes missed due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Degrees
Legal assistant and paralegal online 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 individuals who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online classes can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a respected agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and conventional environment, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the right option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Westbrook CT?
If you live near Westbrook 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.
Westbrook is a town in Middlesex County, Connecticut, United States. The population was 6,938 at the 2010 census. The town center is also classified by the U.S. Census Bureau as a census-designated place (CDP).
Westbrook lies in the shoreline area of the state. The town is bordered by the towns of Essex, Clinton, Deep River, and Old Saybrook, where the Connecticut River empties into Long Island Sound. The Salt Meadow Unit of the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge is located in town.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 21.4 square miles (55 km2), of which, 15.7 square miles (41 km2) is land and 5.7 square miles (15 km2) (26.47%) is water. The CDP has a total area of 2.2 square miles (5.7 km2) of which 22.33% is water.
Select the Best Legal Assistant Certificate Program near Westbrook CT
Enrolling in the right paralegal training program is an important first step to guarantee 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 comfort and privacy of your Westbrook residence. Paralegal academic programs are provided in numerous lengths and formats. Various kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, 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 profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you decide to obtain 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 final decision. And with the right education you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Westbrook CT.
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