How to Select a Paralegal School near Wrightsville Pennsylvania
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Wrightsville PA and start your journey that will lead to a rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you locate the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students start by trying to find schools within driving distance of their Wrightsville homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you must take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be taken into account too. Later in this post we will cover a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your choice. But first, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill comparable job positions and functions, 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 different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Wrightsville PA attorneys with a wide variety of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their daily activities can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a paralegal in Wrightsville PA is by earning a certificate, which can take as little as 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. After you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may want to proceed and earn a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Pennsylvania to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Programs
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Wrightsville PA area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many prospective 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 critical issues to think about as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Wrightsville PA law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Wrightsville PA law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also provide a means for students to start developing contacts within the Wrightsville PA legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Pennsylvania legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary from one state to another, it may be a good idea to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Pennsylvania or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. Also, it will be important to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to first investigate those colleges that are within the Wrightsville PA region.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in cost based on the credential received and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be accessible to help offset some of the cost, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Wrightsville PA. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these added costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Wrightsville PA, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you choose makes available that option. Last, find out what the process is for making-up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Classes
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more prevalent and may be an excellent option for those looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to individuals who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and conventional environment, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the right option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Wrightsville PA?
If you live near Wrightsville PA 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.
Wrightsville is a borough in York County, Pennsylvania, United States. The population was 2,310 at the 2010 census. Wrightsville borough has a police department, historic society, and a volunteer fire company.
According to a plaque at Samuel S. Lewis State Park, which overlooks Wrightsville and the Susquehanna River, Wrightsville was among George Washington's choices as location of the capital of the United States.
The world's longest covered bridge, at 5,960 feet (1,820 m), once spanned the Susquehanna from Wrightsville to neighboring Columbia in Lancaster County. Built in 1814, it was destroyed by high water and ice in 1832. A replacement bridge was burned the night of June 28, 1863, by state militia during the Gettysburg Campaign in the American Civil War. Confederate troops under John Brown Gordon formed a bucket brigade to save the town from fire. Yet another replacement covered bridge was destroyed by a windstorm a few years later.
Find the Ideal Legal Assistant School near Wrightsville PA
Selecting the ideal paralegal educational program is a crucial first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Wrightsville home. Paralegal academic programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Different types of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you elect to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to assess each program and make your final selection. And with the appropriate training you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Wrightsville PA.
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