How to Choose a Paralegal Degree Program near Wolf Point Montana
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Wolf Point MT and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students start by trying to find schools within driving distance of their Wolf Point residences. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be considered also. Later in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your decision. But first, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both fill comparable job roles and functions, just 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 classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Wolf Point MT attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, such as 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 work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their regular activities can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and very challenging. However, 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 restricted to administrative or clerical duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a legal assistant in Wolf Point MT is by earning a certificate, which can involve as little as six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Montana to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly regarded 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 program (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Things to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Wolf Point MT area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other critical aspects to think about also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Wolf Point MT law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no previous experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Wolf Point MT law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Wolf Point MT legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Montana legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary from one state to another, it may be a good idea to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Montana or the state where you plan to work after graduating. In addition, it will be important to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to first investigate those schools that are within the Wolf Point MT region.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential received and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be available to help reduce part of the cost, so be sure to consult with the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Wolf Point MT. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Wolf Point MT, 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 provides that option. Last, inquire what the protocol is for making-up missed classes because of work, illness or family obligations.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Programs
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more common and may be a good option for those looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to those who continue to work while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online classes can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in more 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 program and school you are reviewing 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 formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Wolf Point MT?
If you live near Wolf Point MT 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.
Wolf Point, Montana
Wolf Point is a city in and the county seat of Roosevelt County, Montana, United States. The population was 2,621 at the 2010 census. It is the largest community on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. Wolf Point is the home of the annual Wild Horse Stampede, held every year during the second weekend of July. Wolf Point's Wild Horse Stampede is the oldest rodeo in Montana, and has been called the "Grandaddy of Montana Rodeos".
Wolf Point is located in north-eastern Montana in the wide, shallow valley of the Missouri River, just below its confluence with Wolf Creek. Wolf Point is situated on the High Plains of eastern Montana. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 0.88 square miles (2.28 km2), all of it land.
The city is located on the north bank of the Missouri River, the southern part occupying the ancestral floodplain of that river. The northern part occupies south facing, low-lying hills overlooking a terrace. The central business district is located in the described southern portion.
Choose the Right Legal Assistant Certificate Program near Wolf Point MT
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal degree program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Wolf Point home. Paralegal education programs are provided in various formats and lengths. Various types of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But regardless of 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 ultimate selection. And with the right training you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Wolf Point MT.
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