How to Pick a Paralegal College near Watertown Connecticut
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Watertown CT and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. However, it’s important that you find the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students begin by looking for schools within commuting distance of their Watertown homes. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program must be taken into account also. Later in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your selection. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are available to earn a paralegal certificate or degree.
Connecticut Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold comparable job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Watertown CT lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their everyday activities can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for Watertown CT lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially 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 legal assistant is by obtaining a certificate, which can require as little as 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more expansive education and may be acquired at many Watertown CT area community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Connecticut to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your job 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 certificate or degree from an accredited Watertown CT area program (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Degrees
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more prevalent in Watertown CT and may be an excellent alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to individuals who continue to work 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 study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in more 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 school and program you are considering are accredited by a respected agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the right option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at Watertown CT area community and junior colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other important issues to think about also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a respected 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 training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Watertown CT law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually available only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the Connecticut legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no previous work history, since Watertown CT employers will have to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other Watertown CT legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also provide a means for students to start developing contacts within the legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are evaluating provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Watertown CT legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary from state to state, it might be a good idea to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Connecticut or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. Also, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the area Watertown CT legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the community where you desire to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to initially look at those schools that are within your local region.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be available to help minimize some of the cost, so make sure to talk to the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Watertown CT. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these additional expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while getting their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Watertown CT, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Finally, find out what the process is for making-up missed classes because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Find the Best Paralegal Program near Watertown CT
Enrolling in the best paralegal educational program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Watertown residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in numerous formats and lengths. Different types of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you decide to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to examine each program and make your final selection. And with the ideal education you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Watertown CT.
More About Watertown Connecticut
Watertown is a town in Litchfield County, Connecticut, United States. The population was 22,514 at the 2010 census. The zip code for Watertown is 06795. It is a suburb of Waterbury. It borders the towns of Woodbury, Middlebury, Litchfield, Plymouth, Bethlehem, and Thomaston. The urban center of the town is the Watertown census-designated place, with a population of 3,574 at the 2010 census.
Around 1657 began the colonization of the area today called Watertown. In that time, the colony was called Mattatock, though it had several variations in spelling through the years. The land where Watertown is now located, having originally belonged to Mattatock, officially changed its name to Watterbury (now Waterbury) by record on March 20, 1695, by consensus of a council. Essentially, the original Colony of Mattatuck, which became Watterbury, then Waterbury in name, comprised a much greater land area than Waterbury does today. The original name for Watertown was Waterbury. Thomas Judd and other families were among the first investors to buy the land as a group. The Town of Watertown was officially incorporated in 1780 under a charter within the United States of America.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 29.6 square miles (76.6 km²), of which, 29.1 square miles (75.5 km²) of it is land and 0.4 square miles (1.1 km²) of it (1.45%) is water. Watertown also includes the section known as Oakville, which is often mistaken for a separate town. Although Oakville has its own post office and ZIP code, it does not have a charter or town government of its own. Oakville also receives all of its city services (Police, fire, water and so on) from Watertown.
As of the census of 2000, there were 21,661 people, 8,046 households, and 5,994 families residing in the town. The population density was 743.0 people per square mile (286.9/km²). There were 8,298 housing units at an average density of 284.6 per square mile (109.9/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 96.46% White, 0.75% African American, 0.12% Native American, 1.27% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 0.48% from other races, and 0.87% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.87% of the population.
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