How to Find a Paralegal Program near West Mclean Virginia
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near West Mclean VA and begin your journey that will result in a fulfilling career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students begin by trying to find schools within traveling range of their West Mclean homes. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be considered too. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your selection. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold comparable 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 paralegals and legal assistants help West Mclean VA attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their daily activities may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since 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 Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in West Mclean VA is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve just six months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. When you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Virginia to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can start the process of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the West Mclean VA area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most prospective 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 critical aspects to think about also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous West Mclean VA law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically available only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several West Mclean VA law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to start developing contacts within the West Mclean VA legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Virginia legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws vary from state to state, it may be advantageous to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Virginia or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially consider those colleges that are within the West Mclean VA region.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don’t forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be available to help reduce some of the expense, so make sure to contact the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in West Mclean VA. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near West Mclean VA, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you choose makes available that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making up missed classes because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Classes
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more popular and may be a good option for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses 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 a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a reputable agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the right choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near West Mclean VA?
If you live near West Mclean 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.
McLean (/məˈkleɪn/ mə-KLAYN) is an unincorporated community and census-designated place (CDP) in Fairfax County in Northern Virginia. McLean is home to many diplomats, businessmen, members of Congress, and high-ranking government officials partially due to its proximity to Washington, D.C. and the Central Intelligence Agency. It is the location of Hickory Hill, the former home of Ethel Kennedy, the widow of Robert F. Kennedy. It is also the location of Salona, the former home of Light-Horse Harry Lee, the Revolutionary War hero. The community had an estimated total population of 53,673 in 2015, according to estimates prepared by the United States Census Bureau. It is located between the Potomac River and the town of Vienna. McLean is known for its luxury homes and its nearby high-end shopping destinations: the Tysons Corner Center and the Tysons Galleria. The two McLean zip codes - 22101 and 22102 - are among the most expensive ZIP Codes in Virginia and the United States. In 2018, data from the American Community Survey revealed that McLean was the 3rd wealthiest city in the United States, based on its poverty rate of 2.6% and its median household income of $190,258.
The community received its name from John Roll McLean, the former publisher and owner of The Washington Post. Along with Stephen Benton Elkins and French aristocrat Jean-Pierre Guenard, in 1902 he bought the charter for the Great Falls and Old Dominion Railroad. Completed in 1906, it connected the area with Washington, D.C. McLean named a railroad station costing $1,500, of which $500 was raised locally, after himself where the rail line (traveling on the present route of Old Dominion Drive) crossed the old Chain Bridge Road. The community itself was founded in 1910, when the communities of Lewinsville and Langley merged.
McLean is located at 38°56′03″N 77°10′39″W / 38.93417°N 77.17750°W / 38.93417; -77.17750 (38.9342776, -77.1774801) at an elevation of 285 feet (87 m). Located on the Capital Beltway (Interstate 495) in Northern Virginia, central McLean is 8 miles (13 km) northwest of downtown Washington, D.C. and 9 miles (14 km) northeast of Fairfax, the county seat.
Choose the Right Legal Assistant College near West Mclean VA
Selecting the best paralegal educational program is a crucial first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your West Mclean residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in many formats and lengths. Various kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you choose to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to evaluate each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal education you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in West Mclean VA.
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