How to Choose a Paralegal Program near Whitehall Michigan
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Whitehall MI and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you find the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive 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 more and more academic options are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students start by searching for schools within commuting range of their Whitehall homes. Of those options, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program ought to be taken into account also. Later in this post we will cover a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your choice. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill comparable job positions and functions, only with different titles. However, 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 Whitehall MI attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is normally billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their everyday tasks might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Whitehall MI is by earning a certificate, which can take just 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. Once you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Michigan to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected 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 program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Things to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Whitehall MI area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of prospective 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 aspects to think about also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a recognized 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 targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Whitehall MI law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as 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 Whitehall MI law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while attending school. They can also present an avenue for students to start creating contacts within the Whitehall MI legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Michigan legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it might be a good idea to select a paralegal school domiciled in Michigan or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the area where you wish to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to first look at those colleges that are within the Whitehall MI area.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense 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 offset some of the cost, so be sure to check with the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Whitehall MI. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these additional costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Whitehall MI, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you choose provides that option. Last, ask what the procedure is for making up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Programs
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more popular and may be an excellent alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to individuals who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a reputable agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Whitehall MI?
If you live near Whitehall MI 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.
Whitehall is a city in Muskegon County in the U.S. state of Michigan. The population was 2,706 at the 2010 census. The city is located in the southwest corner of Whitehall Township. Montague is its neighbor.
It is located on White Lake (actually the mouth of the White River on Lake Michigan). Whitehall's recorded history began circa 1859 when Charles Mears, a noted lumber baron to the area, platted the village along with Giles B. Slocum, naming it Mears. The population continued to grow due to its strategic location for floating and distributing lumber.
White River runs between the cities of Whitehall and Montague. The White River is nearly twenty-four miles in length and passes through White Lake before emptying into Lake Michigan. In 1675, Father Pere Marquette stopped in the area and learned that the Native Americans called the stream “Wabish-Sippe,” meaning the river with white clay in the water, which gave rise to the names of White River and White Lake.
Find the Best Paralegal College near Whitehall MI
Selecting the ideal paralegal educational program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Whitehall residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in many lengths and formats. Several kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you elect to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to examine each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate training you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Whitehall MI.
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