How to Pick a Paralegal School near Woolwich Maine
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Woolwich ME and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic choices are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students start by searching for schools within traveling range of their Woolwich homes. Of those options, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program should be taken into consideration as well. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold the same job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Woolwich ME attorneys with a wide range of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their regular tasks may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and very demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Woolwich ME is by earning a certificate, which may involve just 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and may be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Maine to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. 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 address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
What to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Woolwich ME area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate 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 already discussed, there are other significant factors to think about also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Woolwich ME law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you select is accredited is an excellent 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 call some Woolwich ME law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while attending school. They can also provide a means for students to start establishing contacts within the Woolwich ME legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Maine legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws differ among states, it might be advantageous to select a legal assistant school located in Maine or the state where you plan to work after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to build relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the area where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge 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 Woolwich ME region.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost based on the credential received and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be accessible to help minimize part of the expense, so be sure to check with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Woolwich ME. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, some of these additional expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Woolwich ME, make certain 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, find out what the protocol is for making-up missed classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Degrees
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more prevalent and can be an excellent option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a respected agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Woolwich ME?
If you live near Woolwich ME 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.
Woolwich is a town in Sagadahoc County, Maine, United States. The population was 3,072 at the 2010 census. It is part of the Portland–South Portland–Biddeford, Maine metropolitan statistical area. Woolwich is a suburb of the city of Bath located on the opposite shore of Merrymeeting Bay.
Called Nequasset after Nequasset lake by Abenaki Indians, it was first settled in 1638 by Edward Bateman and John Brown. They would purchase the land in 1639 from the sachem Mowhotiwormet, commonly known as Chief Robinhood, who lived near Nequasset Falls. At Day's Ferry on the Kennebec River, Richard Hammond operated a fortified trading post. His household of 16, including servants, workmen and stepchildren, conducted a lucrative fur trade with the Indians. But in the first blow of King Philip's War in the area, on the evening of August 13, 1676, warriors ingratiated themselves into the stockaded trading post, then killed the elderly Hammond and his stepson as they returned for the night. Others were either slain and scalped or taken into captivity. Buildings were looted and burned, and the cattle slain.
Nequasset was attacked during King William's War, when inhabitants were again massacred or forced to abandon their homes. It was assailed again in 1723 during Dummer's War, when the Norridgewocks and their 250 Indian allies from Canada, incited by the French missionary Sebastien Rale, burned dwellings and killed cattle. Following Governor William Dummer's peace treaty of 1725, resettlement would be slow. During the French and Indian War, on June 9, 1758, Indians raided the village, killing members of the Preble family and taking others prisoner to Quebec. This incident became known as the last conflict on the Kennebec River.
Choose the Right Paralegal College near Woolwich ME
Choosing the right paralegal degree program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Woolwich residence. Paralegal academic programs are provided in various lengths and formats. Several kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, 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. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you decide to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to examine each program and make your final decision. And with the appropriate education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Woolwich ME.
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