How to Pick a Paralegal Studies Program near Wrightstown New Jersey
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Wrightstown NJ and start your journey that will result in a fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you find the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students start by searching for schools within traveling range of their Wrightstown homes. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school should be taken into consideration as well. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your selection. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both fill the same job roles and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Wrightstown NJ attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents 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 carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their daily tasks might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, 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 advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs 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 academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to start your career as a paralegal in Wrightstown NJ is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve as little as 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 earned at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. After you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in New Jersey to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly regarded certifying organizations in the profession 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 2 important first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
What to Ask Paralegal Schools
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Wrightstown NJ area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to find out 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 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 previously discussed, there are other crucial issues to think about also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency 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 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. Numerous Wrightstown NJ law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some Wrightstown NJ law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also offer a means for students to begin creating contacts within the Wrightstown NJ legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably 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 an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with New Jersey legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws vary from one state to another, it may be beneficial to choose a paralegal school domiciled in New Jersey or the state where you want to work after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the community where you wish to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to first consider those colleges that are within the Wrightstown NJ area.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don’t forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help reduce some of the expense, so be sure to contact the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Wrightstown NJ. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Wrightstown NJ, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making-up classes missed due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Training
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more popular and can be a good option for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can in some cases be less costly than on campus 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 cover in greater 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 program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the right option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Wrightstown NJ?
If you live near Wrightstown NJ 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.
Wrightstown, New Jersey
Wrightstown is a borough in Burlington County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the borough's population was 802 reflecting an increase of 54 (+7.2%) from the 748 counted in the 2000 Census, which had in turn declined by 3,095 (-80.5%) from the 3,843 counted in the 1990 Census.
Wrightstown was incorporated as a borough by an act of the New Jersey Legislature on March 4, 1918, from portions of New Hanover Township and North Hanover Township, based on the results of a referendum held on March 26, 1918. The borough was named for John Wright, an early settler who contributed the land that became the settlement of Wrightstown.
The borough is one of 56 South Jersey municipalities that are included within the New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve, a protected natural area of unique ecology covering 1,100,000 acres (450,000 ha), that has been classified as a United States Biosphere Reserve and established by Congress in 1978 as the nation's first National Reserve. Part of the borough is included in the state-designated Pinelands Area, which includes portions of Burlington County, along with areas in Atlantic, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester and Ocean counties.
Choose the Ideal Legal Assistant School near Wrightstown NJ
Choosing the ideal paralegal degree program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Wrightstown residence. Paralegal academic programs are offered in many formats and lengths. Different kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance 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 furnished you will have the ability to review each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal education you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Wrightstown NJ.
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