How to Pick a Paralegal Certificate Program near West Hartland Connecticut
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near West Hartland CT and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. However, it’s important that you find the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students begin by searching for schools within commuting range of their West Hartland residences. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you ought to consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school should be taken into account as well. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate 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 the same job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, 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 West Hartland CT attorneys with a diverse array of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their day-to-day activities may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical duties more apropos 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 preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in West Hartland CT is by obtaining a certificate, which may take just 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and can be earned 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. Once you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may want to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Connecticut to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. 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 school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational 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 West Hartland CT area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial issues to research as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency 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 training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous West Hartland CT law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several West Hartland CT law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to start developing contacts within the West Hartland CT legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Connecticut legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary from state to state, it might be beneficial to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Connecticut or the state where you want to practice after graduating. Also, it will be important to develop relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to initially consider those schools that are within the West Hartland CT area.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential received and the length of training provided. Having said that, 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 as well. Financial aid might be obtainable to help offset some of the cost, so make sure to talk to the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in West Hartland CT. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near West Hartland CT, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you select provides that option. Finally, inquire what the procedure is for making up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Programs
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more available and can be a good alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online schools can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a respected agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the right option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near West Hartland CT?
If you live near West Hartland 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 34.6 square miles (89.6 km2), of which 33.1 square miles (85.7 km2) is land and 1.5 square miles (3.9 km2), or 4.39%, is water. Bounded on the north by the Massachusetts border, Hartland is drained by the Farmington River, a tributary of the Connecticut River. The 42nd parallel north and the 73rd meridian west meet in the central western part of town.
As of the census of 2000, there were 2,012 people, 707 households, and 583 families residing in the town. The population density was 60.9 people per square mile (23.5/km²). There were 759 housing units at an average density of 23.0 per square mile (8.9/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 98.31% White, 0.15% African American, 0.05% Native American, 0.60% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 0.20% from other races, and 0.65% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.60% of the population.
There were 707 households out of which 38.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 70.9% were married couples living together, 8.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 17.5% were non-families. 13.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 5.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.83 and the average family size was 3.12.
Enroll in the Ideal Legal Assistant Degree Program near West Hartland CT
Enrolling in the right paralegal educational program is an essential first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your West Hartland home. Paralegal training programs are made available in numerous formats and lengths. Several kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you decide to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to examine each school and make your final decision. And with the right education you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in West Hartland CT.
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