How to Choose a Paralegal School near Williamstown West Virginia
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Williamstown WV and begin your journey that will result in a satisfying profession in legal services. However, it’s essential that you locate the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic options are being offered, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students begin by trying to find schools within traveling range of their Williamstown residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program should be taken into account too. Later on in this article we will cover a list of questions that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your selection. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill the same job roles and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Williamstown WV attorneys with a diverse array of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but some of their routine activities may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents 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 additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be involved and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career as a paralegal in Williamstown WV is by earning a certificate, which can take just 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may want to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in West Virginia to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected certifying agencies 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 school (we will address 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 paralegal or a legal assistant.
Points to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Williamstown WV area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other crucial aspects to research also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Williamstown WV law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Williamstown WV law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the Williamstown WV legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating 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 undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with West Virginia legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Because laws vary among states, it may be a good idea to select a paralegal school located in West Virginia or the state where you want to work after graduating. Also, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the area where you desire to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to first look at those colleges that are within the Williamstown WV area.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be obtainable to help offset part of the expense, so make sure to consult with the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Williamstown WV. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Williamstown WV, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you enroll in offers that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making-up missed classes due to work, illness or family obligations.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Schools
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more available and may be a good alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to those who keep working while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes 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 Williamstown WV?
If you live near Williamstown WV 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.
Williamstown, West Virginia
Williamstown is a city in Wood County, West Virginia, United States, along the Ohio River. It is part of the Parkersburg-Marietta-Vienna metropolitan area. The population was 2,908 at the 2010 census. The Fenton Art Glass Company is located in the city.
Williamstown was named for Isaac Williams (1737–1820), who settled here in 1787. Williams had served under General Braddock (1755) as a ranger and spy and under Governor Dunmore (1774) fighting against the Shawnee. His home was on 400 acres on the Ohio River opposite the mouth of the Muskingum River, site of Marietta, Ohio, which was founded about a year after he arrived. Other local namesakes include Williams Creek and Williams District. The settlement was known as "Williamsport" to Ohio River travelers until 1822 when the present name was formalized.
As of the census of 2010, there were 2,908 people, 1,254 households, and 848 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,107.2 inhabitants per square mile (813.6/km2). There were 1,352 housing units at an average density of 979.7 per square mile (378.3/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 97.7% White, 0.2% African American, 0.5% Native American, 0.3% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 0.4% from other races, and 0.8% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.7% of the population.
Choose the Right Paralegal Program near Williamstown WV
Enrolling in the best paralegal educational program is an important first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Williamstown residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in many lengths and formats. Several kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you decide to acquire your education 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 selection. And with the right education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Williamstown WV.
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