How to Select a Paralegal Degree Program near Waterbury Vermont
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Waterbury VT and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you find the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic options are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students begin by searching for schools within commuting range of their Waterbury residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program must be taken into consideration also. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both fill the same job roles and functions, just with different titles. However, 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 Waterbury VT lawyers with a wide variety of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day activities might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
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 educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Waterbury VT is by earning a certificate, which may take as little as six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. When you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might want to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Vermont to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. 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 program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
What to Ask Paralegal Schools
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Waterbury VT area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant factors to research also, including 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 researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Waterbury VT law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few Waterbury VT law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the Waterbury VT legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, particularly 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 secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Vermont legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it might be a good idea to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Vermont or the state where you wish to work after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to first consider those schools that are within the Waterbury VT area.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending 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 might be obtainable to help reduce some of the expense, so be sure to contact the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Waterbury VT. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these additional expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Waterbury VT, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you select offers that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making up missed classes due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Degrees
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more prevalent and can be a good option for students looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to individuals who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Waterbury VT?
If you live near Waterbury VT 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 location where Waterbury now lies was once the frontier between the Mahican and Pennacook people. European settlement of the area dates from 1763, when King George III granted a charter for land in the Winooski River valley. James Marsh became the first permanent white settler in the region in 1783. Many of the early settlers came from Waterbury, Connecticut, and named their new town in honor of the hometown. The village of Waterbury was incorporated in 1882 with a population of over 2,000.
The Central Vermont Railroad came to Waterbury in 1849. The railroad expanded a passenger station for the railroad in 1875, making the station a more major stop on the Vermonter. The Green Mountain Seminary was built in Waterbury Center in 1869.
The state opened the Vermont State Asylum for the Insane here in 1891. The hospital, renamed the Vermont State Hospital, grew to occupy over 40 buildings, but by the 1980s the number of patients had declined to the point where only one building was required. The remainder of the campus came to be used for state offices.
Find the Ideal Paralegal Training near Waterbury VT
Choosing the ideal paralegal educational program is an important 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 participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Waterbury residence. Paralegal academic programs are made available in various lengths and formats. Different types of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you decide to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to examine each school and make your final selection. And with the appropriate training you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Waterbury VT.
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