How to Select a Paralegal Certificate Program near Woodbury Heights New Jersey
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Woodbury Heights NJ and start your journey that will lead to a fulfilling career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you find the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students begin by trying to find schools within commuting range of their Woodbury Heights residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you need to take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be considered as well. Later in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your choice. But before we do, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
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 same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Woodbury Heights NJ attorneys with a diverse array of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their regular activities might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be involved and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
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. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Woodbury Heights NJ is by earning a certificate, which can require as little as 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. When you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to proceed and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in New Jersey to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Points to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Woodbury Heights NJ area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial factors to research as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a respected organization 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 help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Woodbury Heights NJ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are often obtainable 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 looking at. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Woodbury Heights NJ law firms that you may have an interest 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 may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the Woodbury Heights NJ legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with New Jersey legal services employers. It also confirms that their students 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 located in New Jersey or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. Also, it will be important to build relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the area where you choose to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially consider those schools that are within the Woodbury Heights NJ region.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be available to help reduce part of the expense, so make sure to consult with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Woodbury Heights NJ. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, some of these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Woodbury Heights 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 provides that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making-up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Classes
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more available and can be an excellent option for those searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to those who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a reputable agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Woodbury Heights NJ?
If you live near Woodbury Heights 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.
Woodbury Heights, New Jersey
Woodbury Heights is a borough located in Gloucester County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2000 United States Census, the borough's population was 3,055, reflecting an increase of 67 (+2.2%) from the 2,988 counted in the 2000 Census, which had in turn declined by 404 (-11.9%) from the 3,392 counted in the 1990 Census.
Woodbury Heights was formed as a borough by an act of the New Jersey Legislature on April 6, 1915, from portions of Deptford Township, based on the results of a referendum held on April 27, 1915. Portions were exchanged with Woodbury in 1925, and portions of the city were annexed on March 22, 1938. Portions were exchanged with Deptford Township in 1956 and other portions were annexed from the township in 1965. The borough was named for the city of Woodbury, which in turn was named for its founder Henry Wood, who settled in the area in 1683 after arriving from Bury, England, at the age of 80 to escape religious persecution.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the borough had a total area of 1.228 square miles (3.182 km2), including 1.222 square miles (3.166 km2) of land and 0.006 square miles (0.016 km2) of water (0.50%).
Choose the Best Paralegal School near Woodbury Heights NJ
Selecting the best paralegal degree program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Woodbury Heights home. Paralegal education programs are provided in various formats and lengths. Various kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you elect to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to evaluate each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the right training you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Woodbury Heights NJ.
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