How to Pick a Paralegal Studies Program near Youngstown Ohio
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Youngstown OH and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying career 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 achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational choices are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students start by searching for schools within driving range of their Youngstown residences. Of those choices, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you must take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program should be taken into account 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 every one before making your choice. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill comparable job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Youngstown OH lawyers with a wide variety of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their everyday activities can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite 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 proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Youngstown OH is by earning a certificate, which may take as little as 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Ohio to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
What to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Youngstown OH area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many prospective 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 important aspects to consider as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Youngstown OH law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no previous work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Youngstown OH law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the Youngstown OH legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Ohio 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 among states, it may be a good idea to select a paralegal school domiciled in Ohio or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially look at those schools that are within the Youngstown OH region.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential earned and the length of training provided. 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 obtainable to help reduce some of the cost, so don’t forget to consult with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Youngstown OH. Naturally if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while getting their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Youngstown OH, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you enroll in makes available that option. Last, find out what the procedure is for making-up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Classes
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more prevalent and can be a good alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Youngstown OH?
If you live near Youngstown OH 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.
Youngstown is a city in and the county seat of Mahoning County in the U.S. state of Ohio, with small portions extending into Trumbull County. According to the 2010 Census, Youngstown had a city proper population of 66,982, while the Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, OH-PA Metropolitan Statistical Area it anchors contained 565,773 people in Mahoning and Trumbull counties in Ohio, and Mercer County in Pennsylvania.
Youngstown is located on the Mahoning River, approximately 65 miles (105 km) southeast of Cleveland and 61 miles (100 km) northwest of Pittsburgh. Despite having its own media market, Youngstown is often included in commercial and cultural depictions of both Northeast Ohio as well as the Pittsburgh Tri-State Area due to these proximities. Youngstown lies 10 miles (16 km) west of the Pennsylvania state line, midway between New York City and Chicago via Interstate 80.
The city was named for John Young, an early settler from Whitestown, New York, who established the community's first sawmill and gristmill. Youngstown is in a region of America that is often referred to as the Rust Belt. Traditionally known as a center of steel production, Youngstown was forced to redefine itself when the U.S. steel industry fell into decline in the 1970s, leaving communities throughout the region without major industry. The city has experienced a decline of over 60% of its population since 1959. Youngstown also falls within the Appalachian Ohio region, among the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.
Find the Best Legal Assistant Certificate Program near Youngstown OH
Selecting the best paralegal training program is an important first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Youngstown residence. Paralegal academic 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, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you decide to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to review each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the right education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Youngstown OH.
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