How to Select a Paralegal Certificate Program near Yorktown Virginia
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Yorktown VA and start your journey that will lead to a rewarding profession in legal services. However, it’s important that you find the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students start by trying to find schools within driving range of their Yorktown residences. Of those options, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you must take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be considered also. Later in this post we will cover a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold comparable job positions and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Yorktown VA attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, such as 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 may assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their routine activities might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Yorktown VA is by earning a certificate, which can take as little as six months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more expansive education and may be earned at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might choose to continue and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Virginia to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected certifying organizations in the profession 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 program (we will cover 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.
Points to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Yorktown VA area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other crucial factors to research as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Yorktown VA law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some Yorktown VA law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Yorktown VA legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will probably want 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 programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Virginia legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary from state to state, it may be beneficial to choose a paralegal school located in Virginia or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to first investigate those schools that are within the Yorktown VA area.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be accessible to help offset some of the expense, so don’t forget to contact the school’s financial aid office to find out what is available in Yorktown VA. Naturally if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these added costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Yorktown VA, 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 select provides that option. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making up missed classes due to work, illness or family obligations.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Programs
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more common and can be a good option for those looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to those who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can often be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Yorktown VA?
If you live near Yorktown VA 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.
Yorktown is a census-designated place (CDP) in York County, Virginia, United States. It is the county seat of York County, one of the eight original shires formed in colonial Virginia in 1682. Yorktown's population was 195 as of the 2010 census, while York County's population was 66,134 in the 2011 census estimate.
The town is most famous as the site of the siege and subsequent surrender of General Charles Cornwallis to General George Washington and the French Fleet during the American Revolutionary War on October 19, 1781. Although the war would last for another year, this British defeat at Yorktown effectively ended the war. Yorktown also figured prominently in the American Civil War (1861–1865), serving as a major port to supply both northern and southern towns, depending upon who held Yorktown at the time.
Today, Yorktown is one of three sites of the Historic Triangle, which also includes Jamestown and Williamsburg as important colonial-era settlements. It is the eastern terminus of the Colonial Parkway connecting these locations. Yorktown is also the eastern terminus of the TransAmerica Trail, a bicycle touring route created by the Adventure Cycling Association.
Choose the Ideal Legal Assistant Degree Program near Yorktown VA
Enrolling in the right paralegal degree program is an essential first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Yorktown residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in numerous formats and lengths. Various types of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, 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 profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you decide to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to evaluate each school and make your final selection. And with the appropriate training you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Yorktown VA.
Other Virginia Locations That May Be Of Interest
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Litigation Paralegal Job Description and Career Outlook
Job Description and Duties. The litigation paralegal works with trial attorneys and will perform many tasks during the litigation process. They are a valuable part of the legal team often working on all phases of the trial from beginning to end.
Paralegal - Online Courses and Certification Prep Classes
The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) is America’s foremost organization dedicated to paralegals. It works toward upholding the standards of the profession by providing continuing legal education, certifications, and professional development for legal assistants throughout the country.
LGPA of Virginia
Local Government Paralegal Association of Virginia Learn More. The Local Government Paralegal Association of Virginia was founded to provide a forum for local government paralegals to exchange ideas and share information and professional services unique to local government.
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Virginia Peninsula Paralegal Association
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VARP | VAPA - VAPA | Virginia Alliance of Paralegal ...
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