How to Select a Paralegal Program near Peace Dale Rhode Island
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Peace Dale RI and start your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you find the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students start by looking for schools within traveling distance of their Peace Dale residences. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program should be taken into consideration too. Later in this article we will review a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your choice. But first, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically 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 belong to a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Peace Dale RI attorneys with a diverse array of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their daily activities might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers 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 quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Peace Dale RI is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve as little as 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. After you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Rhode Island to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Peace Dale RI area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential 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 crucial factors to research also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose 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 training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Peace Dale RI law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no previous work history, 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 a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some Peace Dale RI law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also offer a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the Peace Dale RI legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Rhode Island legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Since laws differ from state to state, it might be a good idea to choose a legal assistant school located in Rhode Island or the state where you want to practice after graduating. Also, it will be important to build relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the community where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to first consider those colleges that are within the Peace Dale RI area.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in cost based on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don’t forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be accessible to help minimize part of the cost, so be sure to contact the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Peace Dale RI. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, some of these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Peace Dale RI, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you enroll in provides that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Degrees
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more popular and may be a good alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to individuals who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can often be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are reviewing 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 conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Peace Dale RI?
If you live near Peace Dale 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.
Wakefield-Peacedale, Rhode Island
Wakefield-Peacedale is a census-designated place (CDP) in the town of South Kingstown in Washington County, Rhode Island, United States that includes the villages of Peace Dale and Wakefield. The population was 8,468 at the 2000 census.
At the 2000 census, there were 8,468 people, 3,221 households and 2,174 families residing in the CDP. The population density was 671.4/km² (1,739.4/mi²). There were 3,385 housing units at an average density of 268.4/km² (695.3/mi²). The racial makeup of the CDP was 90.34% White, 2.01% African American, 3.08% Native American, 1.23% Asian, 0.56% from other races, and 2.79% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.56% of the population.
There were 3,221 households of which 36.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.4% were married couples living together, 13.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.5% were non-families. 25.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.58 and the average family size was 3.14.
Enroll in the Ideal Paralegal College near Peace Dale RI
Selecting the best paralegal degree program is a vital first step to guarantee 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 attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Peace Dale home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Various types of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But no matter how you elect to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to review each program and make your final selection. And with the appropriate education you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Peace Dale RI.
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