How to Choose a Paralegal Program near Saunderstown Rhode Island
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Saunderstown RI and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic options are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students begin by trying to find schools within driving distance of their Saunderstown homes. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program should be considered also. Later on in this article we will review a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold the same 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 belong to a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Saunderstown RI 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 work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their routine tasks might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical functions more applicable 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 ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Saunderstown RI is by earning a certificate, which can involve as little as six months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. 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 Rhode Island to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Points to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can start the process of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Saunderstown RI area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other critical issues to think about also, for instance accreditation and the reputation 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 thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program 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 targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Saunderstown RI law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are considering. 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 training exclusively. Checking 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 verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Saunderstown RI law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while still in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Saunderstown RI legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Rhode Island legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws vary from state to state, it might be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school located in Rhode Island or the state where you want to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the community where you want to work. 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 need to initially consider those colleges that are within the Saunderstown RI area.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help reduce part of the cost, so be sure to consult with the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Saunderstown RI. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, some of these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Saunderstown RI, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you select provides that option. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Schools
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more common and may be a good option for students looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to individuals who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online programs can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be reduced 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 guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest quality. 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 dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Saunderstown RI?
If you live near Saunderstown RI 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.
Saunderstown, Rhode Island
Saunderstown is known as the birthplace of artist Gilbert Stuart, who is best known for painting the portrait of George Washington that is portrayed on the one-dollar bill. The Gilbert Stuart Birthplace and Museum consists of the house in which Stuart was born, a nature trail, and a functional gristmill, and is now open to the public as a museum. Saunderstown is also the location of Casey Farm, an 18th-century plantation that is now a family farm. The farm grows organic vegetables, herbs, and flowers in a Community Agriculture Program. It is operated by Historic New England.
The Saunderstown Historic District encompasses a section of Saunderstown which developed as a boatbuilding center and summer resort area in the late 19th century. It is centered on Ferry Road, Willett Road, and Waterway, between Boston Neck Road and Narragansett Bay. In addition to being home to a number of shipyards, several owned by members of the Saunders family, the area also became noted as a summer resort, hosting Benoni Lockwood and Frances Willing Wharton (a cousin to writer Edith Wharton), as well as the architect and artist Christopher Grant LaFarge, son of the famous artist John La Farge. This area is mainly residential, with wood frame houses one or two stories in height, with vernacular styling. Non-residential buildings include a country store, recreation center (which was formerly a fire barn), and the Saunderstown Post Office, which was built in 1902 as a Baptist church.
Choose the Ideal Legal Assistant Degree Program near Saunderstown RI
Selecting the ideal paralegal training program is an essential 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 comfort and privacy of your Saunderstown home. Paralegal training programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Various types of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you decide to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to examine each program and make your final selection. And with the appropriate education you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Saunderstown RI.
Other Rhode Island Locations That May Be Of Interest
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