How to Select a Paralegal Training Program near Whitehall Montana
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Whitehall MT and start your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you locate the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational choices are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students start by looking for schools within commuting range of their Whitehall homes. Of those options, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be taken into consideration as well. Later in this article we will review a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both hold the same job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Whitehall MT lawyers with a wide range of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. For 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, a paralegal’s work is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their routine tasks can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be involved and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to manage 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 perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a paralegal in Whitehall MT is by earning a certificate, which can involve just six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Montana to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Things to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Whitehall MT area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other crucial aspects to research also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a recognized 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 targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Whitehall MT law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some Whitehall MT law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while attending school. They can also provide a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Whitehall MT legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating 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 want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Montana legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws differ from state to state, it may be advantageous to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Montana or the state where you want to work after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to first consider those colleges that are within the Whitehall MT area.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential received and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be available to help minimize some of the expense, so make sure to check with the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Whitehall MT. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online program, some of these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Whitehall MT, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Last, ask what the process is for making up missed classes due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Training
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more available and may be a good alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to those who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education 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 organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Whitehall MT?
If you live near Whitehall 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.
The town is nestled in the Jefferson Valley, which is shadowed by the Tobacco Root and Highland Mountain ranges and sits in the heart of the Deerlodge National Forest. It is also within 23–60 miles of three major airports, four colleges, five ski resorts, seven major rivers, mountain lakes for fishing and backpacking, four lakes for boating, and three hot springs. There are numerous snowmobiling trails for winter riding and summer trail rides. The mountain ranges surrounding the valley, provide excellent opportunitiy for hunting big game.
Whitehall began as a rail depot created by the Northern Pacific and Montana Railroad on September 25, 1889. The name for the depot came from E.G. Brooke, who was inspired by a similar town he stayed in Illinois while making his way westward. On September 3, 1890, the Jefferson County Commissioners accepted and filed the Townsite of Whitehall.
Public education in the town of Whitehall is provided by Whitehall School District. The district includes Whitehall Elementary School (grades K-6), Whitehall Middle School (grades 7-8), and Whitehall High School (grades 9-12).
Choose the Best Legal Assistant College near Whitehall MT
Selecting the right paralegal training program is a vital first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Whitehall residence. Paralegal academic programs are made available in numerous lengths and formats. Different kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you decide to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to examine each school and make your final decision. And with the appropriate training you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Whitehall MT.
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