How to Select a Paralegal Certificate Program near Winterville North Carolina
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Winterville NC and start your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you locate the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic options are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students start by searching for schools within commuting distance of their Winterville residences. Of those options, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program must be taken into consideration as well. Later in this post we will cover a list of questions that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your selection. But before we do, let’s take a look at 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 comparable job roles and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Winterville NC attorneys with a diverse array of job functions, such as 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 work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day tasks may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep 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 complicated and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to start your career as a paralegal in Winterville NC is by earning a certificate, which may take as little as six months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be earned at many community colleges in two years. For 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 might want to continue and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in North Carolina to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected 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 program (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining 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 Degree Programs
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Winterville NC area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other important issues to research also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Winterville NC law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance 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 schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program 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 rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Winterville NC law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the Winterville NC legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with North Carolina legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary from state to state, it may be beneficial to choose a paralegal school located in North Carolina or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the area where you desire to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially investigate those schools that are within the Winterville NC region.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential earned and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be obtainable to help minimize some of the cost, so make sure to check with the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Winterville NC. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate 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 Winterville NC, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in offers 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 Training
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more prevalent and can be a good alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online programs can often be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Winterville NC?
If you live near Winterville NC 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.
Winterville, North Carolina
As of 2010, there were 10,791 people, 1,848 households, and 1,371 families residing in the town. The population density was 1,954.1 people per square mile (755.0/km²). There were 1,937 housing units at an average density of 790.0 per square mile (305.3/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 59.24% White, 38.36% African American, 0.35% Native American, 0.81% Asian, 0.10% Pacific Islander, 0.40% from other races, and 0.73% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.02% of the population.
There were 1,848 households out of which 38.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 53.6% were married couples living together, 17.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 25.8% were non-families. 22.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.57 and the average family size was 3.01.
In the town, the population was spread out with 28.0% under the age of 18, 7.9% from 18 to 24, 34.3% from 25 to 44, 19.7% from 45 to 64, and 10.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33 years. For every 100 females, there were 84.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 79.6 males.
Select the Best Legal Assistant College near Winterville NC
Selecting the best paralegal educational program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Winterville home. Paralegal training programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Several kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you elect to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to examine each program and make your final selection. And with the ideal education you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Winterville NC.
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