How to Choose a Paralegal Studies Program near Whitehall Wisconsin
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Whitehall WI and begin your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. However, it’s important that you locate the best school so that you will receive 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 more and more academic choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students begin by looking for schools within traveling distance of their Whitehall homes. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime 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 ought to be considered too. Later on in this article we will cover a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your decision. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill the same job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Whitehall WI attorneys with a wide range of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their daily tasks may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative 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 ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
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. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Whitehall WI is by obtaining a certificate, which may require just 6 months to accomplish. Most 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 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. When you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Wisconsin to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
What to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Whitehall WI area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially 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 begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other crucial factors to consider as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching 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 pick need to be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also obtain 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 obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Whitehall WI law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no previous experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, 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 call some Whitehall WI law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while attending school. They can also provide a means for students to begin creating contacts within the Whitehall WI legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Wisconsin legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary from state to state, it may be beneficial to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Wisconsin or the state where you want to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be important to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even 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 want to first investigate those colleges that are within the Whitehall WI area.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. Having said that, 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 as well. Financial aid might be obtainable to help offset some of the cost, so be sure to check with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is available in Whitehall WI. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Whitehall WI, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you enroll in makes available that option. Last, ask what the process is for making-up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Schools
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more available and may be an excellent alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such items 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 training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the right choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Whitehall WI?
If you live near Whitehall WI 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.
As of the census of 2010, there were 1,558 people, 665 households, and 382 families residing in the city. The population density was 556.4 inhabitants per square mile (214.8/km2). There were 741 housing units at an average density of 264.6 per square mile (102.2/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 96.9% White, 0.4% African American, 0.1% Native American, 0.4% Asian, 1.5% from other races, and 0.6% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 4.2% of the population.
There were 665 households of which 27.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.8% were married couples living together, 9.5% had a female householder with no husband present, 4.2% had a male householder with no wife present, and 42.6% were non-families. 36.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 16.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.24 and the average family size was 2.92.
The median age in the city was 42 years. 23.2% of residents were under the age of 18; 7.6% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 22.7% were from 25 to 44; 26.7% were from 45 to 64; and 19.7% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 48.8% male and 51.2% female.
Enroll in the Right Paralegal College near Whitehall WI
Choosing the ideal 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 choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Whitehall home. Paralegal academic programs are made available in numerous formats and lengths. Different kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you elect to acquire your education 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 ultimate decision. And with the ideal education you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Whitehall WI.
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