How to Select a Paralegal School near Westpoint Indiana
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Westpoint IN and begin your journey that will result in a satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably 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 at school and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students start by searching for schools within commuting range of their Westpoint residences. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime 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 school must be taken into consideration as well. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill the same job roles and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Westpoint IN attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but some of their routine tasks can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be involved and rather 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 paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Westpoint IN is by earning a certificate, which can require just 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more extensive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Indiana to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Points to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Westpoint IN area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many prospective 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 important factors to research as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose need to be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Westpoint IN law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking 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 contact a few Westpoint IN 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 rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while attending school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Westpoint IN legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Indiana legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ from one state to another, it may be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school located in Indiana or the state where you want to work after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially consider those colleges that are within the Westpoint IN region.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential earned and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be available to help minimize some of the expense, so make sure to consult with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Westpoint IN. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these added expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match 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 Westpoint IN, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in offers that option. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making up missed classes due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Degrees
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more available and may be a good alternative for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online classes can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address 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 sure that the school and program you are thinking about 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 setting, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the right choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Westpoint IN?
If you live near Westpoint 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.
The Westpoint (Chinese: 西港中心) is a skyscraper located in the Sai Ying Pun district of Hong Kong. The tower rises 41 floors and 186 metres (610 ft) in height. The building was completed in 1999. It was designed by architectural firm Ho & Partners Architects, and was developed by Chun Wo Construction & Engineering. The Westpoint, which stands as the 84th-tallest building in Hong Kong, is composed entirely of office space. The building is architecturally unique due to its ball structure that adorns the roof; the ball is home to a private club.
The building was originally meant to serve as the headquarters of the Chinese state-owned corporation China Merchants Group, but was sold to the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in the early 2000s. The entire building is occupied by this office and the ground level is heavily fortified and protected by security. The top level houses the director’s office, a clubhouse, and a grand ballroom. Other features of the building include a gym, a conference centre, banquet facilities, exhibition space, and a beauty salon with barbers from mainland China.
Find the Ideal Legal Assistant Certificate Program near Westpoint IN
Choosing the ideal paralegal educational program is an essential first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Westpoint residence. Paralegal academic programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Various kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you elect to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to examine each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal training you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Westpoint IN.
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