How to Choose a Paralegal School near Windham Maine
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Windham ME and start your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you locate the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational choices are being offered, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students start by looking for schools within driving range of their Windham residences. Of those options, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you need to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school should be considered as well. Later in this article we will review a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your selection. But first, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially 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 are part of a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Windham ME attorneys with a diverse array of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their everyday tasks might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really 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 number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially 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 quickest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Windham ME is by earning a certificate, which may involve as little as 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. When you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and earn a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Maine to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded 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 school (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Points to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Windham ME area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial issues to consider as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Windham ME law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school 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 confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Windham ME law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while attending school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Windham ME legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Maine legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it may be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Maine or the state where you wish to work after graduation. Also, it will be important to create relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to initially look at those colleges that are within the Windham ME area.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. 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 part of the cost, so don’t forget to consult with the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Windham ME. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Windham ME, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you choose provides that option. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making-up missed classes due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Degrees
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more prevalent and may be an excellent alternative for those looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to those who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online classes can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the right choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Windham ME?
If you live near Windham 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.
Windham is a town in Cumberland County, Maine, United States. The population was 17,001 at the 2010 census. It includes the villages of South Windham and North Windham. It is part of the Portland–South Portland–Biddeford, Maine Metropolitan Statistical Area.
The township was granted in 1734 by the Massachusetts General Court to Abraham Howard, Joseph Blaney and 58 others from Marblehead, Massachusetts. In 1737, New Marblehead Plantation was settled by Captain Thomas Chute. By order of the Massachusetts General Court, a fort was built in spring of 1744 on a hill in the southern part of town near the early center of settlement to offer protection during King George's War. A 50-foot square blockhouse constructed of 12-inch thick hewn hemlock had an overhanging second story with firing ports and two swivel guns in watch posts on diagonal corners. The blockhouse was surrounded by a stockade wall of 12-inch diameter log posts 16 feet long. The single gate through the stockade wall was covered by a 4.2-inch (11 cm) bore 9-pounder cannon within the blockhouse.
The town's inhabitants took shelter in the stockade between 1745 and 1751. The last Indian attack on the town occurred on May 14, 1756. New Marblehead Plantation was incorporated on June 12, 1762 as Windham, named for Wymondham in Norfolk, England. Windham Minutemen marched to Portland in response to the Burning of Falmouth on 18 October 1775 and sixteen men were drafted from the town for the Penobscot Expedition. Thirteen Windham men are reported as being members of the Continental Army with George Washington's American Revolutionary War winter encampment at Valley Forge. Windham's 9-pounder cannon and one swivel gun from the stockade blockhouse were loaned to Portland in 1775. Portland had refused to surrender these guns to Captain Henry Mowat as he demanded before he burned the town; and they were placed aboard the privateer Reprieve in 1776.
Choose the Best Legal Assistant Degree Program near Windham ME
Selecting the best paralegal educational program is a vital first step to guarantee 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 attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Windham residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in many lengths and formats. Various kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But no matter how you elect to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to review each school and make your final selection. And with the appropriate training you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Windham ME.
Other Maine Locations That May Be Of Interest
Business Results 1 - 10 of 8