How to Find a Paralegal School near Youngwood Pennsylvania
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Youngwood PA and start your journey that will lead to a rewarding profession in legal services. However, it’s essential that you locate the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic choices are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students start by trying to find schools within commuting range of their Youngwood homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program must be taken into account too. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your selection. But before we do, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both hold comparable job positions and functions, only 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 classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Youngwood PA attorneys with a wide range of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but some of their day-to-day tasks can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be involved and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career as a paralegal in Youngwood PA is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve just 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. When you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Pennsylvania to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Youngwood PA area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must know 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 also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting 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 some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Youngwood PA law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically available only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no previous experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some Youngwood PA law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while attending school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the Youngwood PA legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Pennsylvania legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it may be a good idea to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Pennsylvania or the state where you wish to work after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to first consider those schools that are within the Youngwood PA area.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in cost depending on the credential received and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don’t forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be available to help minimize some of the expense, so make sure to consult with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Youngwood PA. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, some of these added costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Youngwood PA, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you choose makes available that option. Last, ask what the process is for making-up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Degrees
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more available and can be a good option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to those who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the right choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Youngwood PA?
If you live near Youngwood 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.
The community was established in 1899 and was built on land owned by John Y. Woods, a farmer. In creating the name Youngwood, John Y. Woods took his own family name and combined it with his maternal grandfather's name, which was Young.
Youngwood owes its existence to the Southwest Branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad, which ran from Greensburg south to Uniontown and Fairchance. In 1900, a large classification yard was built for sorting railroad cars, and this railroad yard provided Youngwood's economic base for many decades.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the borough has a total area of 1.9 square miles (4.8 km²), of which, 1.8 square miles (4.8 km²) of it is land and 0.04 square miles (0.1 km²) of it (1.08%) is water.
Enroll in the Ideal Paralegal College near Youngwood PA
Selecting the ideal paralegal training program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Youngwood home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Several kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding 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 evaluate each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal training you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Youngwood PA.
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