How to Select a Paralegal Program near Topeka Kansas
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Topeka KS and begin your journey that will result in a fulfilling profession in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you locate the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students start by trying to find schools within driving range of their Topeka residences. Of those options, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program ought to be considered also. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your decision. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic choices 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, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Topeka KS attorneys with a wide range of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their regular tasks might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complex and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants 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 clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to start your career as a paralegal in Topeka KS is by obtaining a certificate, which may take just six months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more expansive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Kansas to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Topeka KS area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other important issues to think about as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating 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 should be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Topeka KS law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are considering. 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 education exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Topeka KS 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 rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while still in school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the Topeka KS legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, particularly 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 graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Kansas legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Since laws differ among states, it may be a good idea to choose a paralegal school located in Kansas or the state where you plan to work after graduating. In addition, it will be important to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to initially look at those colleges that are within the Topeka KS region.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be available to help offset some of the cost, so be sure to check with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Topeka KS. Naturally if you choose to attend an online school, some of these added expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Topeka KS, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in offers that option. Finally, find out what the process is for making-up classes missed due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Schools
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more popular and can be an excellent alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in more 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 reputable organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Topeka KS?
If you live near Topeka KS 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.
Topeka (/toʊˈpiːkə/;Kansa: Tó Pee Kuh) is the capital city of the U.S. state of Kansas and the seat of Shawnee County. It is situated along the Kansas River in the central part of Shawnee County, in northeast Kansas, in the Central United States. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 127,473. The Topeka Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes Shawnee, Jackson, Jefferson, Osage, and Wabaunsee counties, had a population of 233,870 in the 2010 census.
The name Topeka is a Kansa-Osage sentence that means "place where we dug potatoes", or "a good place to dig potatoes". As a placename, Topeka was first recorded in 1826 as the Kansa name for what is now called the Kansas River. Topeka's founders chose the name in 1855 because it "was novel, of Indian origin and euphonious of sound." The mixed-blood Kansa Native American, Joseph James, called Jojim, is credited with suggesting the name of Topeka. The city, laid out in 1854, was one of the Free-State towns founded by Eastern antislavery men immediately after the passage of the Kansas–Nebraska Bill. In 1857, Topeka was chartered as a city.
The city is well known for the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, which overturned Plessy vs. Ferguson and declared racial segregation in public schools to be unconstitutional. Three ships of the U.S. Navy have been named USS Topeka after the city.
Enroll in the Best Paralegal College near Topeka KS
Choosing the best paralegal educational program is a vital first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Topeka residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in numerous lengths and formats. Different kinds of private and public institutions make available 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 impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you choose to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to review each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the right education you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Topeka KS.
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