How to Find a Paralegal Program near Watrous New Mexico
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Watrous NM and start your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. However, it’s important that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students start by looking for schools within driving range of their Watrous residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be taken into account as well. Later on 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 before making your selection. But first, let’s take a look at 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 essentially both hold the same job positions 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 separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Watrous NM lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their daily activities may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be involved and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants 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 volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Watrous NM is by obtaining a certificate, which may take as little as six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. After you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in New Mexico to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected 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 benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Watrous NM area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial issues to consider also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Watrous NM law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically available only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few Watrous NM law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while still in school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Watrous NM legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with New Mexico legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it may be a good idea to enroll in a legal assistant school located in New Mexico or the state where you want to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the area where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to first look at those colleges that are within the Watrous NM area.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be accessible to help reduce some of the expense, so make sure to contact the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Watrous NM. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, some of these added costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Watrous NM, 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 provides that option. Last, inquire what the protocol is for making-up missed classes due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Schools
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more common and may be a good alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to individuals who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools 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 certain that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded organization, such as 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 might be the right choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Watrous NM?
If you live near Watrous NM 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.
Watrous (La Junta)
Watrous, also named La Junta, is a National Historic Landmark District near Watrous, New Mexico. It encompasses the historic junction point of the two major branches of the Santa Fe Trail, a major 19th-century frontier settlement route between St. Louis, Missouri and Santa Fe, New Mexico. La Junta, marked this junction point, as well as the first major indications of civilization before westbound travelers reached Santa Fe. The district includes a large area west of the modern community of Watrous, encompassing the confluence of the Mora and Sapello Rivers. Surviving buildings include the houses of early ranchers, as well as a stagecoach mailstop and inn. The district was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1963.
The Santa Fe Trail was one of the major routes by which the American West was settled. It had two major branches: the Mountain Branch, which skirted north of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and crossed southward at Raton Pass, and the Cimarron Cutoff, which ran a more direct route south of mountains but across desert that was also populated by hostile Native Americans. These two routes came together to the west of the confluence of the Mora and Sapello Rivers, which is just north of present-day Watrous. The Santa Fe Trail remained in use until the 1870s, when it was supplanted by Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, whose route roughly follows the Cimarron Cutoff route. The railroad established the present-day community of Watrous east of the trail junction, after which the small community there was largely abandoned.
The community at the trail junction was known as La Junta ("the junction" in Spanish), Tiptonville, or Watrous, the latter two based on the names of two early ranchers in the area, Samuel Watrous and William Tipton. There are 21 surviving structures or foundational remains in the district, most of which were built before 1870. Important surviving structures include the ranch house and store of Samuel Watrous (now on the Watrous Valley Ranch), a similar building belonging to William Tipton, and the rancho house of William Koenig. The Koenig House, built in the 1860s on what is now known as the Phoenix Ranch, is one of the state's finest examples of Territorial architecture. There are also three small cemeteries, and the remains of three structures associated with a horse corral managed by Fort Union.
Choose the Right Legal Assistant School near Watrous NM
Enrolling in the best paralegal training program is an essential 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 participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Watrous home. Paralegal academic programs are made available in numerous formats and lengths. Various kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you elect to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to examine each program and make your final decision. And with the appropriate training you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Watrous NM.
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