How to Choose a Paralegal Certificate Program near Winchester Kentucky
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Winchester KY and start your journey that will result in a fulfilling career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you locate the right 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 increasingly more educational options are becoming available, both at school and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students start by looking for schools within commuting distance of their Winchester residences. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school must be taken into account as well. Later in this article we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your choice. But first, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold the same job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Winchester KY attorneys with a wide variety of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their regular activities might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be involved and quite challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Winchester KY is by earning a certificate, which may involve just six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and earn a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Kentucky to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your career 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 cover the benefits 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.
Points to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Winchester KY area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other critical aspects to think about also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Winchester KY law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often available only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some Winchester KY law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the Winchester KY legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Kentucky legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it may be a good idea to select a paralegal school located in Kentucky or the state where you want to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be important to establish relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the community where you choose to practice. 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 may need to initially look at those colleges that are within the Winchester KY region.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be available to help reduce some of the cost, so make sure to contact the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Winchester KY. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these added costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Winchester KY, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you choose provides that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Classes
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more popular and can be an excellent alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to individuals who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least 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 highly regarded organization, for example 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 Winchester KY?
If you live near Winchester KY 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.
Winchester is a home rule-class city in and the county seat of Clark County, Kentucky, United States. The population was 18,368 at the 2010 census. It is part of the Lexington-Fayette, KY Metropolitan Statistical Area.
Winchester is located northwest of the center of Clark County, 18 miles (29 km) east of Lexington and 15 miles (24 km) west of Mt. Sterling. Kentucky Route 1958 (Bypass Road) is an outer loop around the town. Kentucky Route 627 (Boonesborough Road) leads towards Richmond, 21 miles (34 km) to the south and Paris to the north. U.S. Route 60 (Winchester-Lexington Road/Lexington Avenue) runs through downtown Winchester. Interstate 64 passes through the northern part of the city, with access from exits 94 and 96. The Mountain Parkway turns off I-64 just northeast of Winchester and leads 75 miles (121 km) east to Salyersville.
According to the United States Census Bureau, Winchester has a total area of 7.9 square miles (20.4 km2), of which 7.8 square miles (20.3 km2) is land and 0.04 square miles (0.1 km2), or 0.67%, is water.
Choose the Right Paralegal Training near Winchester KY
Selecting the right paralegal training program is an essential 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 at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Winchester home. Paralegal education programs are made available in various lengths and formats. Various kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice 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, choose carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you elect to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to review each school and make your final selection. And with the ideal education you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Winchester KY.
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