How to Select a Paralegal School near Whiteland Indiana
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Whiteland IN and begin your journey that will lead to a fulfilling career in legal services. However, it’s essential that you find the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic choices are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students start by looking for schools within commuting distance of their Whiteland homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you must take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school need to be considered too. Later in this article we will review a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your choice. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both fill comparable job positions and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Whiteland IN lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day tasks might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Whiteland IN is by obtaining a certificate, which may take just 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. When you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to continue and earn a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Indiana to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few 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 school (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Whiteland IN area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other significant factors to consider as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Whiteland IN law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically available only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. 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 training exclusively. Checking that the program 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 determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Whiteland IN law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Whiteland IN legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Indiana legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ from state to state, it may be beneficial to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Indiana or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to build relationships in the neighboring 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 go to classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to first look at those schools that are within the Whiteland IN area.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be obtainable to help reduce some of the cost, so don’t forget to contact the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Whiteland IN. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online school, some of these additional costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while receiving their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Whiteland IN, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in offers that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making-up missed classes due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Classes
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more common and can be an excellent alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to those who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online classes can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a respected organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the right choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Whiteland IN?
If you live near Whiteland IN 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.
Enroll in the Ideal Legal Assistant Training near Whiteland IN
Enrolling in the best paralegal educational program is a crucial first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Whiteland residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in many lengths and formats. Different kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you elect to acquire 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 selection. And with the ideal education you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Whiteland IN.
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