How to Choose a Paralegal Studies Program near Wellston Oklahoma
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Wellston OK and begin your journey that will result in a fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you locate the best school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic options are being offered, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students begin by trying to find schools within commuting range of their Wellston residences. Of those options, they look 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 must consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be considered also. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your decision. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both fill comparable job roles and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Wellston OK attorneys with a wide range of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their everyday tasks might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability 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 prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Wellston OK is by earning a certificate, which may involve as little as 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and can be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. Once you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Oklahoma to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. 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 school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Wellston OK area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant aspects to think about as well, 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 schools you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose should be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Wellston OK law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically available only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Wellston OK law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the Wellston OK legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide 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 probably want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Oklahoma legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary from state to state, it might be a good idea to choose a paralegal school located in Oklahoma or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the area where you want to practice. 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 initially look at those schools that are within the Wellston OK area.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help reduce part of the expense, so be sure to check with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Wellston OK. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, some of these additional costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Wellston OK, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you select makes available that option. Last, ask what the process is for making up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Schools
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more popular and can be an excellent option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to individuals who keep working while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online schools can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Wellston OK?
If you live near Wellston OK 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.
As of the census of 2000, there were 825 people, 338 households, and 225 families residing in the town. The population density was 608.5 people per square mile (234.2/km²). There were 380 housing units at an average density of 280.3 per square mile (107.9/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 86.67% White, 5.58% African American, 2.91% Native American, 0.48% from other races, and 4.36% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.42% of the population.
There were 338 households out of which 36.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.5% were married couples living together, 14.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.4% were non-families. 29.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.44 and the average family size was 3.05.
In the town, the population was spread out with 30.3% under the age of 18, 8.6% from 18 to 24, 28.4% from 25 to 44, 19.5% from 45 to 64, and 13.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33 years. For every 100 females, there were 95.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 87.3 males.
Select the Right Paralegal College near Wellston OK
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal educational program is a vital first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Wellston residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Different kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you elect to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to review each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate training you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Wellston OK.
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