How to Choose a Paralegal Training Program near Williamston Michigan
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Williamston MI and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. However, it’s important that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic options are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students start by looking for schools within commuting range of their Williamston homes. Of those options, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program must be taken into consideration too. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your choice. But first, let’s take 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 for the most part both hold the same job roles and responsibilities, only 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 paralegals and legal assistants assist Williamston MI lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their routine activities might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching related cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and very demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Williamston MI is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve just 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might choose to continue and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Michigan to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected certifying agencies 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 cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
What to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Williamston MI area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other critical aspects to research as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee 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 also. A number of Williamston MI law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically available only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few Williamston MI law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also present a means for students to start establishing contacts within the Williamston MI legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Michigan legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it might be advantageous to choose a paralegal school located in Michigan or the state where you plan to work after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to build relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to first investigate those schools that are within the Williamston MI region.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be available to help reduce some of the expense, so be sure to check with the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Williamston MI. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, some of these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Williamston MI, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you select provides that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making up missed classes due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Degrees
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more prevalent and may be a good option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to individuals who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Williamston MI?
If you live near Williamston 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.
Williamston is a city in Ingham County in the U.S. state of Michigan. The city is at the southeast corner of Williamstown Township, but is politically independent. A portion of Williamston was annexed from adjacent Wheatfield Township. Downtown Williamston is located at the intersection of Grand River Avenue (M-43) and Putnam Street (Williamston Road). The population was 3,854 at the 2010 census. Williamston is most notable for its antiques markets, and it has been promoted as a quaint, small town just outside the larger city of Lansing. It recently renovated McCormick Park, which borders the Red Cedar River in downtown Williamston.
The location that was later to become Williamston started as the cross-road of the Grand River and Saginaw Indian Trails. It was first occupied by a small band of the Saginaw tribe of the Chippewa People which by the mid-19th century used the area as a 'summer village' (it was not used by them year-round, but they 'wintered' in the area that is now Meridian Township). They used Williamston for planting crops, burying their dead, and holding an annual spring gathering, primarily using the land just north of the Red Cedar River.
The area was settled by Europeans in 1834 when Hiram and Joseph Putnam moved briefly to the area from Jackson. They spent less than one full year in the area, planting and then harvesting one crop of oats. Today, inside the city limits, Williamston Road becomes Putnam Street, having been named in their honor. (For many years, several street signs inside the city were misspelled as "Putman Street", leading to confusion about the correct spelling.)
Find the Ideal Legal Assistant School near Williamston MI
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal educational program is an essential first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Williamston home. Paralegal training programs are made available in many formats and lengths. Different types of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you decide to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to examine each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal training you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Williamston MI.
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