How to Find a Paralegal Studies Program near Waterville Maine
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Waterville ME and start your journey that will lead to a fulfilling profession in legal services. However, it’s important that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need 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 alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students begin by searching for schools within traveling range of their Waterville residences. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program must be taken into account as well. Later in this post we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your decision. But first, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill the same job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Waterville ME attorneys with a diverse array of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but some of their day-to-day activities can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a paralegal in Waterville ME is by earning a certificate, which may require as little as 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 obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. Once you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Maine to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help establish 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 2 important first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Things to Ask Paralegal Schools
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Waterville ME area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of prospective 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 important factors to consider as well, such as 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 researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a highly regarded 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 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 potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Waterville ME law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you select 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 rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Waterville ME law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also offer a means for students to start developing contacts within the Waterville ME legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication 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? Because laws vary from state to state, it might be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Maine or the state where you wish to work after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the area where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to first consider those schools that are within the Waterville ME region.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. However, 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 obtainable to help minimize part of the cost, so make sure to check with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Waterville ME. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, some of these added expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Waterville ME, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in offers that option. Last, ask what the process is for making up missed classes due to work, illness or family obligations.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Classes
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more popular and may be a good alternative for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to those who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online classes can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Waterville ME?
If you live near Waterville 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.
Waterville is a city in Kennebec County of the U.S. state of Maine, United States, on the west bank of the Kennebec River. Home to Colby College and Thomas College, the population was 16,406 at the 2016 census. Waterville is also the latter of the cities which make up the Augusta-Waterville, ME Micropolitan Statistical Area.
Waterville has a Mayor and council-manager form of government, led by a mayor and a seven-member city council. The city council is the governing board, and the city manager is the chief administrative officer of the City, responsible for the management of all City affairs. The city is also home to Fox affiliate WPFO and Daystar rebroadcaster WFYW-LP both serving the Portland market and to several radio stations including Colby's WMHB, country WEBB, adult standards WTVL and MPBN on 91.3 FM. The film Wet Hot American Summer is set in Waterville.
The area now known as Waterville was once inhabited by the Canibas tribe of Abenaki (Indigenous People). Called Taconnet after Chief Taconnet, the main village was located on the east bank of the Kennebec River at its confluence with the Sebasticook River at what is now Winslow. Known as Ticonic by English settlers, it was burned in 1692 during King William's War, after which the Canibas tribe abandoned the area. Fort Halifax was built by General John Winslow in 1754, and the last skirmish with Indigenous peoples occurred on May 18, 1757.
Select the Best Legal Assistant College near Waterville ME
Selecting the ideal paralegal degree program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Waterville home. Paralegal training programs are provided in many lengths and formats. Several types of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you elect to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your final decision. And with the appropriate education you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Waterville ME.
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