How to Pick a Paralegal School near Waianae Hawaii
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Waianae HI and begin your journey that will result in a fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you find the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic options are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students start by searching for schools within traveling range of their Waianae residences. Of those options, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program must be taken into account too. Later on in this post we will review a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before 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.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold 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 separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Waianae HI attorneys with a diverse array of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is typically billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their everyday activities may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys prepare 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 complicated and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical duties more apropos 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 ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education 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 requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Waianae HI is by earning a certificate, which can take just six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Hawaii to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
What to Ask Paralegal Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Waianae HI area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other important factors to think about as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select should be accredited by a recognized organization 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 targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Waianae HI law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often available only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Waianae HI law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while attending school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the Waianae HI legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing 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 good relationships with Hawaii legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws differ among states, it might be a good idea to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Hawaii or the state where you want to practice after graduating. Also, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to first look at those schools that are within the Waianae HI area.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be accessible to help reduce some of the cost, so be sure to talk to the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Waianae HI. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Waianae HI, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you select offers that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Schools
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more available and may be an excellent option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online classes can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for instance 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 may be the right choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Waianae HI?
If you live near Waianae HI 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 CDP has a total area of 7.0 square miles (18.2 km2), of which 5.4 square miles (13.9 km2) is land and 1.7 square miles (4.4 km2), or 23.92%, is water.
As of the census of 2000, there were 10,506 people, 2,595 households, and 2,221 families residing in the CDP. The population density was 3,086.0 people per square mile (1,193.1/km²). There were 2,925 housing units at an average density of 859.2 per square mile (332.2/km²). The racial makeup of the CDP was 9.35% White, 0.81% African American, 0.26% Native American, 19.44% Asian, 27.26% Pacific Islander, 0.97% from other races, and 41.92% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 14.00% of the population.
There were 2,595 households out of which 43.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 58.0% were married couples living together, 19.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 14.4% were non-families. 10.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 4.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 4.04 and the average family size was 4.30.
Select the Best Legal Assistant Program near Waianae HI
Selecting the best paralegal training program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Waianae residence. Paralegal training programs are made available in many formats and lengths. Different types of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound impact 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 greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you decide to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to examine each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the right education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Waianae HI.
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