How to Choose a Paralegal Certificate Program near Wilmette Illinois
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Wilmette IL and begin your journey that will lead to a fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you locate the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational options are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students begin by trying to find schools within traveling distance of their Wilmette homes. Of those options, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you ought to consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be considered too. Later on in this article we will review a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold the same job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Wilmette IL attorneys with a wide variety of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their everyday activities may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and very challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical functions 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 ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Wilmette IL is by obtaining a certificate, which may take as little as 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. After 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 Illinois to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Points to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Wilmette IL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. 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 critical issues to consider also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose 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 receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Wilmette IL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically available only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Wilmette IL law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may 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 enterprise while still in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the Wilmette IL legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Illinois legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ from state to state, it might be beneficial to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Illinois or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. Also, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the area where you choose 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 initially consider those schools that are within the Wilmette IL area.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be available to help reduce some of the cost, so don’t forget to contact the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Wilmette IL. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, some of these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Wilmette IL, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you choose provides that option. Last, find out what the procedure is for making up missed classes due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Programs
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more common and can be an excellent alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to individuals who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover 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 sure that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Wilmette IL?
If you live near Wilmette 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.
Wilmette is a village in New Trier Township, Cook County, Illinois, United States. It is located 14 miles (23 km) north of Chicago's downtown district (4 mi or 6 km from Chicago's northern border) and had a population at the 2010 census of 27,087. Wilmette is considered a bedroom community in the North Shore region. In 2007, Wilmette was ranked as the seventh best place to raise children in the U.S., according to Business Week. In 2015, Wilmette was ranked the best place to live in Illinois based on a variety of factors including its low unemployment rate, median income, low housing vacancy rate, high education expenditures per student, low crime, and short commute times. Wilmette is home to 2 of Illinois' 17 elementary schools (Romona Elementary, St. Joseph School) to be awarded the 2017 National Blue Ribbon award.
Wilmette is located on the western shore of Lake Michigan and is a near northern suburb of Chicago, immediately North of Evanston at 42°4′38″N 87°43′25″W / 42.07722°N 87.72361°W / 42.07722; -87.72361 (42.077178, -87.723736). The North Shore Channel drainage canal empties into Lake Michigan at Wilmette Harbor.
According to the 2010 census, Wilmette has a total area of 5.409 square miles (14.01 km2), of which 5.4 square miles (13.99 km2) (or 99.83%) is land and 0.009 square miles (0.02 km2) (or 0.17%) is water.
Select the Right Legal Assistant Program near Wilmette IL
Selecting the right paralegal degree program is a crucial first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Wilmette home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in numerous formats and lengths. Different kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you elect to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to review each school and make your final decision. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Wilmette IL.
Other Illinois Locations That May Be Of Interest
Business Results 1 - 10 of 504