How to Choose a Paralegal Studies Program near Wheaton Missouri
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Wheaton MO and begin your journey that will lead to a fulfilling career in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you find the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational options are being offered, both on campus and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students begin by looking for schools within traveling range of their Wheaton residences. Of those choices, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you ought to take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program ought to be taken into consideration as well. Later 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 decision. But first, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold the same job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Wheaton MO lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their routine tasks can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career as a paralegal in Wheaton MO is by earning a certificate, which may involve just 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might want to continue and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Missouri to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help substantiate 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 school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Wheaton MO area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other significant issues to consider as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Wheaton MO law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are often accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Wheaton MO law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even if 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 offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also offer a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Wheaton MO legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Missouri legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary from one state to another, it may be advantageous to select a paralegal school domiciled in Missouri or the state where you want to work after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to build relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the area where you want to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to initially look at those schools that are within the Wheaton MO area.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can differ 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 training. Don’t forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be obtainable to help offset some of the expense, so make sure to contact the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Wheaton MO. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while getting their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Wheaton MO, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you enroll in provides that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making-up missed classes because of work, illness or family obligations.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Training
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more popular and can be an excellent alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online programs can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain 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 environment, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the right choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Wheaton MO?
If you live near Wheaton 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.
As of the census of 2010, there were 696 people, 274 households, and 175 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,364.7 inhabitants per square mile (526.9/km2). There were 333 housing units at an average density of 652.9 per square mile (252.1/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 89.8% White, 0.1% African American, 0.7% Native American, 1.4% Asian, 5.2% from other races, and 2.7% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 7.5% of the population.
There were 274 households of which 35.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.6% were married couples living together, 15.3% had a female householder with no husband present, 2.9% had a male householder with no wife present, and 36.1% were non-families. 32.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 15.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.54 and the average family size was 3.17.
The median age in the city was 35.8 years. 29.5% of residents were under the age of 18; 8.1% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 23.9% were from 25 to 44; 24.7% were from 45 to 64; and 13.6% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 46.1% male and 53.9% female.
Enroll in the Right Paralegal Training near Wheaton MO
Selecting the best paralegal educational program is an important first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Wheaton residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in various formats and lengths. Several types of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you elect to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to examine each program and make your final decision. And with the appropriate education you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Wheaton MO.
Other Missouri Locations That May Be Of Interest
Business Results 1 - 10 of 1