How to Find a Paralegal Certificate Program near Woods Hole Massachusetts
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Woods Hole MA and start your journey that will lead to a rewarding career in legal services. However, it’s important that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic choices are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students start by looking for schools within driving distance of their Woods Hole homes. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you must take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school need to be considered too. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your choice. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill the same job positions and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Woods Hole MA attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their routine tasks can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and very demanding. 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 action. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a paralegal in Woods Hole MA is by earning a certificate, which can involve as little as six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. After you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might choose to continue and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Massachusetts to practice as a paralegal, certification may 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 program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Woods Hole MA area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. 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 critical aspects to think about also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select should be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Woods Hole MA law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some Woods Hole MA law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also present a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Woods Hole MA legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing 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 most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Massachusetts legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws differ from state to state, it might be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school located in Massachusetts or the state where you wish to work after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to first consider those schools that are within the Woods Hole MA region.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be available to help minimize some of the expense, so make sure to consult with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Woods Hole MA. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these additional costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Woods Hole MA, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you choose offers that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making up missed classes because of work, illness or family obligations.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Programs
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more common and can be an excellent option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to those who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online schools can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address 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 sure that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the right option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Woods Hole MA?
If you live near Woods Hole MA 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.
Woods Hole, Massachusetts
Woods Hole is a census-designated place in the town of Falmouth in Barnstable County, Massachusetts, United States. It lies at the extreme southwest corner of Cape Cod, near Martha's Vineyard and the Elizabeth Islands. The population was 781 at the 2010 census.
It is the site of several famous marine science institutions, including Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the Marine Biological Laboratory, the Woods Hole Research Center, NOAA's Northeast Fisheries Science Center (which started the Woods Hole scientific community in 1871), the Woods Hole Science Aquarium, a USGS coastal and marine geology center, and the home campus of the Sea Education Association. It is also the site of United States Coast Guard Sector Southeastern New England (formerly USCG Group Woods Hole), the Nobska Light lighthouse, and the terminus of the Steamship Authority ferry route between Cape Cod and the island of Martha's Vineyard.
Historically, Woods Hole included one of the few good harbors (along with Hyannis) on the southern side of Cape Cod (i.e. Great Harbor, contained by Penzance Point). The community became a center for whaling, shipping, and fishing, prior to its dominance today by tourism and marine research. At the end of the nineteenth century, Woods Hole was the home of the Pacific Guano Company, which produced fertilizer from guano imported from islands in the Pacific Ocean, the Caribbean, and the coast of South Carolina. After the firm went bankrupt in 1889, Long Neck–the peninsula on which their factory was located–was renamed Penzance Point and was developed with Shingle-Style summer homes for bankers and lawyers from New York and Boston. Notable property owners on Penzance Point at the beginning of the twentieth century included Seward Prosser of New York's Bankers Trust Company; Francis Bartow, a partner in J. P. Morgan and Company; Joseph Lee, a partner in Lee, Higginson & Co.; and Franklin A. Park, an executive of Singer Sewing Machine. Other notable businessmen established homes on Gansett Point, Nobska Point, and at Quissett Harbor, further from the village center.
Choose the Right Legal Assistant Training near Woods Hole MA
Selecting the best paralegal training program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying 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 Woods Hole home. Paralegal training programs are made available in numerous lengths and formats. Several types of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you decide to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to examine each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal education you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Woods Hole MA.
Other Massachusetts Locations That May Be Of Interest
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