How to Choose a Paralegal Program near Woodbine Maryland
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Woodbine MD and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you locate the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students start by searching for schools within traveling range of their Woodbine homes. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school should be taken into consideration also. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your selection. But first, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill comparable job positions and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Woodbine MD attorneys with a diverse array of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is normally billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their everyday tasks may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and rather demanding. 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 restricted to administrative or clerical duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Woodbine MD is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve just six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more expansive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Maryland to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
What to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Woodbine MD area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree 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 discussed, there are other significant factors to think about as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a respected accrediting agency 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 focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training 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 Woodbine MD law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants 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 Program? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Woodbine MD law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also provide a means for students to start developing contacts within the Woodbine MD legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Maryland legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it might be beneficial to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Maryland or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to create relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to initially consider those colleges that are within the Woodbine MD region.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential received and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help offset some of the cost, so be sure to check with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is available in Woodbine MD. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, some of these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Woodbine MD, 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 select provides that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making-up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Degrees
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more popular and can be an excellent alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the right choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Woodbine MD?
If you live near Woodbine MD 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.
Woodbine is an unincorporated rural community in Howard and Carroll counties, Maryland, United States. It is part of the Baltimore metropolitan area. It is located southeast of Frederick, west of Baltimore, north of Washington, D.C., and east of Mount Airy. The community was named for the woodbine plant, which grew in the community in fields and along riverbanks.
Woodbine is located at the juncture of the Patapsco River, the B&O Railroad, and the road that runs north from Lisbon to Winfield on Liberty Road (Maryland Route 26) and through to Westminster, Maryland. The original road from Baltimore to Frederick runs just north of Lisbon, following a slight ridge line westward half way to Woodbine (the road was finally paved in the 1960s). This was the original trail that existed before the National Road was built (the road that runs through Lisbon).
During the Civil War, Confederate cavalry crossed the Patapsco River at Woodbine and at Hoods Mill, just a few miles east on the river and the B&O Railroad, scouting the Union Army that was on its way to the Battle of Gettysburg. The main road at that time ran just west of the existing road and up the west side of a creek that runs south and that joins with the Patapsco River just 50 yards west of the existing road. That original road, now partly unused, runs north 100 yards from the river and then Eastward (Gum Road) to join up with the existing road today. There was no bridge across the Patapsco River at that time, just a ford in the river.
Select the Right Legal Assistant Training near Woodbine MD
Selecting the ideal paralegal training program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Woodbine residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in numerous lengths and formats. Several types of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you choose to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal training you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Woodbine MD.
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