How to Pick a Paralegal Degree Program near West Bend Iowa
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near West Bend IA and start your journey that will result in a satisfying career in legal services. However, it’s important that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students start by searching for schools within commuting distance of their West Bend residences. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school need to be considered also. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold comparable job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist West Bend IA lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically 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 abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but some of their regular tasks can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a paralegal in West Bend IA is by obtaining a certificate, which may require just 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. Once you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might want to proceed and get a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Iowa to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Points to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the West Bend IA area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important aspects to think about also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. 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 West Bend IA law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some West Bend IA law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start creating contacts within the West Bend IA legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools 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 available? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Iowa legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it might be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school located in Iowa or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to build relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to initially investigate those schools that are within the West Bend IA area.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential received 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 aid may be obtainable to help offset some of the cost, so make sure to consult with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in West Bend IA. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near West Bend IA, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in provides that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Classes
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more available and may be an excellent option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online schools can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a respected agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near West Bend IA?
If you live near West Bend IA 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 Bend, Iowa
West Bend had its start in the early 1880s by the building of the Burlington, Cedar Rapids and Northern Railway through that territory. It was originally called Ives after the president of the railroad, but the townspeople had it changed to West Bend from the bend in the river. West Bend (aka Ives) was the first town in Palo Alto County. A special five cent tax to build a railroad station was promised to the railroad if they would create a stop when the railroad was built. The railroad did that placing the line and the new station in West Bend.
As of the census of 2010, there were 785 people, 360 households, and 213 families residing in the city. The population density was 882.0 inhabitants per square mile (340.5/km2). There were 396 housing units at an average density of 444.9 per square mile (171.8/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 99.1% White, 0.1% Native American, and 0.8% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.4% of the population.
There were 360 households of which 20.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.7% were married couples living together, 4.4% had a female householder with no husband present, 3.1% had a male householder with no wife present, and 40.8% were non-families. 38.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 23.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.07 and the average family size was 2.71.
Enroll in the Best Legal Assistant Degree Program near West Bend IA
Selecting the right paralegal educational program is a crucial first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your West Bend residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Various types of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you decide to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to assess each program and make your final selection. And with the appropriate education you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in West Bend IA.
Other Iowa Locations That May Be Of Interest