How to Pick a Paralegal Studies Program near Westport Washington
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Westport WA and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. However, it’s important that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students begin by looking for schools within commuting range of their Westport homes. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school must be considered as well. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your decision. But first, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold the same job roles and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Westport WA attorneys with a wide range of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day tasks may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative functions more applicable 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 ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially 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 begin your career as a legal assistant in Westport WA is by obtaining a certificate, which may require as little as six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. Once you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Washington to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded 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 discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Points to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Westport WA area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of 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 critical aspects to think about as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a reputable 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 focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Westport WA law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Westport WA law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while still in school. They can also offer a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Westport WA legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Washington 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 advantageous to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Washington or the state where you want to practice after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to build relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the area where you choose to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to initially look at those colleges that are within the Westport WA region.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. However, 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 also. Financial aid may be obtainable to help minimize part of the cost, so be sure to talk to the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Westport WA. Of course if you opt to attend an online program, some of these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Westport WA, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you enroll in offers that option. Finally, inquire what the procedure is for making-up classes missed because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Classes
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more popular and may be a good alternative for those looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to those who keep working while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Westport WA?
If you live near Westport WA 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.
Westport is a city in Grays Harbor County, Washington, United States. The city's population was 2,099 at the 2010 census. It is located on a peninsula on the south side of the entrance to Grays Harbor from the Pacific Ocean.
The public Westport Marina is the largest marina on the outer coast of the United States's Pacific Northwest. The marina is home to a large commercial fishing fleet and several recreational charter fishing vessels. A summer-only passenger ferry, discontinued in 2008, previously connected the town to Ocean Shores, across the mouth of the harbor to the north.
Westport was officially incorporated on June 26, 1914. Names for the area in the past include Peterson's Point, Chehalis City, and Fort Chehalis. The latter name is for a U.S. Army fort established in 1860 before the town was founded, "ts-a-lis" is the Lower Chehalis word for Westport, meaning "place of sand". Early explorers pronounced the word "Chehalis" and gave this name to the river and the people living up river who later became the Chehalis people or "People of the Sands". The area was used regularly during the summer by local Native American tribes (most likely the Shoalwater Bay Tribe, comprising Willapa Chinook and Lower Chehalis people) before Thomas Barker Speake and his family arrived early in the summer of 1857. Westport is also the home to a station for the US Coast Guard. In 2015, the Ocosta School District became the first to build a publicly funded vertical tsunami shelter, located at Ocosta Elementary School.
Choose the Best Legal Assistant College near Westport WA
Enrolling in the best paralegal educational program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Westport home. Paralegal academic programs are provided in various formats and lengths. Different kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you decide to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to review each program and make your final selection. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Westport WA.
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