How to Pick a Paralegal Certificate Program near West Harrison Indiana
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near West Harrison IN and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you locate the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic options are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students begin by trying to find schools within traveling range of their West Harrison residences. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be taken into account as well. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your selection. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill the same job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help West Harrison IN lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their regular tasks might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in West Harrison IN is by obtaining a certificate, which may require just 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Indiana to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Points to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the West Harrison IN area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other critical aspects to research as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a respected organization 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 certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous West Harrison IN law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually available only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several West Harrison IN law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also present a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the West Harrison IN legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Indiana legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary among states, it might be a good idea to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Indiana or the state where you wish to work after graduation. In addition, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to first look at those colleges that are within the West Harrison IN area.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be accessible to help reduce some of the expense, so don’t forget to consult with the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in West Harrison IN. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near West Harrison IN, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in provides that option. Finally, inquire what the procedure is for making up classes missed because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Degrees
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more available and may be a good alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to those who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near West Harrison IN?
If you live near West Harrison 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.
West Harrison, Indiana
According to the 2010 census, West Harrison has a total area of 0.228 square miles (0.59 km2), of which 0.22 square miles (0.57 km2) (or 96.49%) is land and 0.008 square miles (0.02 km2) (or 3.51%) is water.
As of the census of 2010, there were 289 people, 136 households, and 68 families residing in the town. The population density was 1,313.6 inhabitants per square mile (507.2/km2). There were 174 housing units at an average density of 790.9 per square mile (305.4/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 99.0% White, 0.3% African American, 0.3% Native American, and 0.3% Asian. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.3% of the population.
There were 136 households of which 21.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 30.1% were married couples living together, 13.2% had a female householder with no husband present, 6.6% had a male householder with no wife present, and 50.0% were non-families. 43.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 11% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.13 and the average family size was 2.94.
Choose the Ideal Paralegal Degree Program near West Harrison IN
Choosing the ideal paralegal educational program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your West Harrison home. Paralegal education programs are made available in numerous lengths and formats. Several kinds of public and private 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 school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed 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 provided you will have the ability to examine each school and make your final decision. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in West Harrison IN.
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