How to Choose a Paralegal Program near Willard Missouri
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Willard MO and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying profession in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students start by trying to find schools within traveling distance of their Willard homes. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school must be considered also. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your selection. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold the same job positions and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Willard MO lawyers with a wide range of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to 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 regular activities may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and stay 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 rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger number 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 arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Willard MO is by earning a certificate, which may require just 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. After you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Missouri to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your employment 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Points to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Willard MO area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of 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 crucial factors to think about as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over several 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 school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Willard MO law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically available only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some Willard MO law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the Willard MO legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, especially 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 graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Missouri legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Since laws differ from one state to another, it might be a good idea to choose a legal assistant school located in Missouri or the state where you want to work after graduation. Also, it will be important to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you choose to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to first investigate those schools that are within the Willard MO region.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be available to help reduce some of the cost, so don’t forget to contact the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Willard MO. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Willard MO, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you enroll in makes available that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making-up missed classes due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Degrees
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more prevalent and can be an excellent option for students searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to those who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online classes can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the right option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Willard MO?
If you live near Willard MO 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.
Willard's main east-west road, U.S. 160, is known as Olympian Boulevard because two graduates of Willard High School have participated in the Olympics. Although the town remains relatively small in size, the city of Willard has shown considerable growth in recent years.
As of the census of 2010, there were 5,288 people, 1,901 households, and 1,455 families residing in the city. The population density was 893.2 inhabitants per square mile (344.9/km2). There were 2,038 housing units at an average density of 344.3 per square mile (132.9/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 96.4% White, 0.9% African American, 0.6% Native American, 0.1% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 0.3% from other races, and 1.8% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.8% of the population.
There were 1,901 households of which 45.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 59.8% were married couples living together, 11.9% had a female householder with no husband present, 4.8% had a male householder with no wife present, and 23.5% were non-families. 19.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.75 and the average family size was 3.13.
Select the Best Legal Assistant Training near Willard MO
Choosing the right paralegal training program is an essential first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Willard residence. Paralegal training programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Different types of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you decide to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to review each program and make your final selection. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Willard MO.
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