How to Find a Paralegal School near Winnetka Illinois
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Winnetka IL and begin your journey that will lead to a fulfilling career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you find the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational choices are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students start by searching for schools within commuting distance of their Winnetka homes. Of those choices, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program should be considered too. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let’s have a look at 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 essentially 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 different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Winnetka IL lawyers with a wide variety of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their daily tasks may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. 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 clerical or administrative tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Winnetka IL is by earning a certificate, which can require just 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. After you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Illinois to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected certifying agencies 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Winnetka IL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other significant aspects to consider as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Winnetka IL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Winnetka IL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also offer a means for students to start creating contacts within the Winnetka IL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering 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 great relationships with Illinois legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it may be advantageous to choose a paralegal school located in Illinois or the state where you want to work after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to first look at those schools that are within the Winnetka IL area.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be accessible to help minimize some of the cost, so make sure to contact the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Winnetka IL. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these added expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Winnetka IL, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you enroll in makes available that option. Last, find out what the procedure is for making up missed classes because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Classes
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more common and can be an excellent alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to those who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online schools can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the right choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Winnetka IL?
If you live near Winnetka IL 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.
Winnetka (/wɪˈnɛtkə/) is a village in Cook County, Illinois, United States, located 16 miles north of downtown Chicago. The population was 12,187 at the 2010 census. The village is one of the wealthiest places in the nation in terms of household income, and the richest in Illinois.
Winnetka is located at 42°6′22″N 87°44′16″W / 42.10611°N 87.73778°W / 42.10611; -87.73778 (42.106227, −87.73801). Winnetka is located 650 feet (200 m) above sea level and has a magnetic declination of 3° 10' W. According to the 2010 census, Winnetka has a total area of 3.893 square miles (10.08 km2), of which 3.81 square miles (9.87 km2) (or 97.87%) is land and 0.083 square miles (0.21 km2) (or 2.13%) is water.
As of the census of 2010, there were 12,187 people, 4,102 households, and 3,328 families residing in the village. The racial makeup of the village was 94.8% White, 0.3% African American, 0.1% Native American, 3.3% Asian, 0.3% from other races, and 1.2% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.2% of the population.
Find the Ideal Legal Assistant College near Winnetka IL
Selecting the best paralegal educational program is a crucial first step to guarantee 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 attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Winnetka residence. Paralegal training programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Different kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you choose to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to examine each program and make your final decision. And with the right training you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Winnetka IL.
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