How to Find a Paralegal Training Program near Wessington South Dakota
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Wessington SD and start your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you find the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students begin by trying to find schools within traveling range of their Wessington homes. Of those choices, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program should be considered as well. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both hold the same job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Wessington SD attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and abide by 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 day-to-day tasks might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really 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 take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Wessington SD is by earning a certificate, which may require just 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in South Dakota to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected certifying agencies 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Things to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Wessington SD area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other crucial factors to consider also, 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 considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Wessington SD law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no previous experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as 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 Wessington SD law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation 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 Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also provide a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Wessington SD legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with South Dakota legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws vary from state to state, it may be beneficial to select a legal assistant school domiciled in South Dakota or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially look at those schools that are within the Wessington SD region.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be accessible to help offset some of the expense, so don’t forget to consult with the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Wessington SD. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online program, some of these additional costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Wessington SD, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you select makes available that option. Last, inquire what the protocol is for making-up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Training
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more prevalent and may be a good option for those searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to those who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive 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, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Wessington SD?
If you live near Wessington SD 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.
Wessington, South Dakota
The early growth of Wessington began because it was a transshipment point for locally produced grains because of the railroad (C. & N.W. Ry. Co.). This allowed local producers lower shipping costs compared to villages further from railroads, encouraging the location of other businesses in the town. Wessington originally was located in Beadle County, and the cohesiveness the community soon led to growth into neighboring Hand County.
In 1918 there was a flourishing natural ice business that provisioned refrigerated freight cars. The cattle industry in the area has increased the market quality of the nation's cattle through improvements in herd management and adaptations to changing consumer demands. Many producers have received national recognition throughout the years.
As of the census of 2010, there were 170 people, 91 households, and 44 families residing in the city. The population density was 447.4 inhabitants per square mile (172.7/km2). There were 139 housing units at an average density of 365.8 per square mile (141.2/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 98.8% White and 1.2% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.2% of the population.
Find the Right Legal Assistant Degree Program near Wessington SD
Choosing the ideal paralegal degree program is an essential first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Wessington residence. Paralegal training programs are offered in various lengths and formats. Several kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you choose to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to examine each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal training you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Wessington SD.
Other South Dakota Locations That May Be Of Interest