How to Select a Paralegal Certificate Program near Winter Springs Florida
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Winter Springs FL and begin your journey that will result in a satisfying profession in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students start by searching for schools within driving range of their Winter Springs homes. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program should be considered also. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your selection. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill the same job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Winter Springs FL lawyers with a wide range of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are relevant to 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 transferring files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their routine tasks can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complex and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a paralegal in Winter Springs FL is by earning a certificate, which can require just six months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. When you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Florida to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected 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 program (we will discuss the advantages 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.
Things to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can start the process of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Winter Springs FL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most 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 crucial factors to consider also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Winter Springs FL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Winter Springs FL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also offer a means for students to start creating contacts within the Winter Springs FL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating 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 probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Florida legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ among states, it might be beneficial to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Florida or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the area where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially investigate those schools that are within the Winter Springs FL area.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential received and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be accessible to help reduce part of the expense, so be sure to consult with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is available in Winter Springs FL. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, some of these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Winter Springs FL, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select makes available that option. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Classes
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more common and can be a good alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to individuals who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Winter Springs FL?
If you live near Winter Springs FL 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.
Winter Springs, Florida
Winter Springs is a city in Seminole County, Florida, United States. The population was 33,282 at the 2010 census. According to the 2013 Census Bureau estimates, the city has a population of 33,871. It is part of the Orlando–Kissimmee–Sanford Metropolitan Statistical Area.
As of the census of 2000, there were 31,666 people, 11,774 households, and 8,901 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,207.3 inhabitants per square mile (852.0/km²). There were 12,306 housing units at an average density of 857.8 per square mile (331.1/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 88.73% White, 4.59% African American, 0.19% Native American, 1.94% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 2.52% from other races, and 1.99% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 10.52% of the population. There is a Jewish community.
There were 11,774 households out of which 38.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 61.2% were married couples living together, 11.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 24.4% were non-families. 18.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 6.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.69 and the average family size was 3.08.
Find the Right Paralegal College near Winter Springs FL
Choosing the best paralegal educational program is an important first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Winter Springs residence. Paralegal training programs are offered in numerous formats and lengths. Several types of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you elect to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to evaluate each school and make your final selection. And with the right education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Winter Springs FL.
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