How to Select a Paralegal Certificate Program near White South Dakota
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near White SD and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you locate the ideal school so that you will get 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 more and more academic choices are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students start by trying to find schools within commuting distance of their White residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are prime 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 school need to be considered also. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold comparable job positions and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help White SD lawyers with a wide range of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day tasks may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in White SD is by obtaining a certificate, which may require just six months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in South Dakota to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few of the highly regarded 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 2 essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Things to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the White SD area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other significant aspects to research also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many White SD law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are often accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several White SD law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the White SD legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with South Dakota legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws differ among states, it might be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school located in South Dakota or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to first look at those schools that are within the White SD area.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don’t forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be available to help reduce some of the expense, so be sure to talk to the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in White SD. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, some of these added costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near White SD, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you choose provides that option. Finally, inquire what the procedure is for making up missed classes due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Degrees
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more prevalent and may be an excellent option for students searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to individuals who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education 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, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the right option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near White SD?
If you live near White 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.
White, South Dakota
As of the census of 2010, there were 485 people, 195 households, and 121 families residing in the city. The population density was 489.9 inhabitants per square mile (189.2/km2). There were 212 housing units at an average density of 214.1 per square mile (82.7/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 98.4% White, 0.8% Asian, and 0.8% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.4% of the population.
There were 195 households of which 28.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 49.7% were married couples living together, 8.7% had a female householder with no husband present, 3.6% had a male householder with no wife present, and 37.9% were non-families. 34.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.31 and the average family size was 2.98.
The median age in the city was 41.7 years. 23.7% of residents were under the age of 18; 7.5% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 23.3% were from 25 to 44; 24.7% were from 45 to 64; and 20.8% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 50.1% male and 49.9% female.
Select the Right Paralegal School near White SD
Choosing the ideal paralegal educational program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your White home. Paralegal education programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Several types of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound impact 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 best possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you choose to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to review each program and make your final decision. And with the ideal education you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in White SD.
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