How to Choose a Paralegal Training Program near Spencer West Virginia
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Spencer WV and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding career in legal services. However, it’s essential that you locate the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic options are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students start by looking for schools within commuting range of their Spencer homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program should be considered too. Later on in this post we will review a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold the same job positions and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Spencer WV attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their daily tasks may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be involved and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to start your career as a paralegal in Spencer WV is by obtaining a certificate, which can require as little as six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more expansive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. Once you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue and receive a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in West Virginia to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
What to Ask Paralegal Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Spencer WV area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other crucial factors to consider also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School 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 may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Spencer WV law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often available only for accredited programs.
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 special importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, 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 some Spencer WV law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Spencer WV legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with West Virginia legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary from one state to another, it might be beneficial to choose a paralegal school domiciled in West Virginia or the state where you wish to work after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to create relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to initially investigate those schools that are within the Spencer WV region.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. However, 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 assistance may be obtainable to help offset some of the expense, so don’t forget to check with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Spencer WV. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, some of these added costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Spencer WV, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in offers that option. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making up missed classes due to work, illness or family obligations.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Classes
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more common and may be a good option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to individuals who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools 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 certain 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 disciplined enough to study in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Spencer WV?
If you live near Spencer 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.
Spencer, West Virginia
Spencer is a city in Roane County, West Virginia, United States. Originally known as "California," Spencer was chartered in 1858, and named after Spencer Roane (1762–1822), a distinguished jurist from Virginia, who served on the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, and for whom Roane county was named. The population was 2,322 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Roane County. Spencer is the home of the annual West Virginia Black Walnut Festival. Points of interest include Charles Fork Lake, Chrystal Water and Power Company-Spencer Water and Ice Company, the McIntosh Mansion, and the Robey Theatre.
The climate in this area is characterized by hot, humid summers and generally mild to cool winters. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Spencer has a humid subtropical climate, abbreviated "Cfa" on climate maps.
As of the census of 2010, there were 2,322 people, 1,005 households, and 578 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,842.9 inhabitants per square mile (711.5/km2). There were 1,180 housing units at an average density of 936.5 per square mile (361.6/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 97.5% White, 0.1% Native American, 0.3% Asian, 0.6% from other races, and 1.5% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.7% of the population.
Enroll in the Ideal Paralegal Training near Spencer WV
Enrolling in the right paralegal training program is a crucial first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Spencer residence. Paralegal academic programs are made available in many formats and lengths. Several kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you decide to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to evaluate each program and make your final decision. And with the right education you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Spencer WV.
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