How to Choose a Paralegal School near Waipahu Hawaii
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Waipahu HI and start your journey that will lead to a rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you find the best school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic options are being offered, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students start by trying to find schools within traveling distance of their Waipahu homes. Of those options, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school should be taken into account as well. Later in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your selection. But first, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic options that are available to earn a paralegal certificate or degree.
Hawaii Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill comparable job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Waipahu HI attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but some of their regular tasks might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for Waipahu HI attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a legal assistant is by earning a certificate, which can involve just 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and can be acquired at numerous Waipahu HI area community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might want to continue and earn a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Hawaii to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your career opportunities, but help substantiate 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 degree or certificate from an accredited Waipahu HI area school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Schools
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more popular in Waipahu HI and may be a good option for those looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to those who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the right option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at Waipahu HI area community and junior colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other important aspects to consider also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few 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 Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Waipahu HI law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the Hawaii paralegal schools you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no previous experience, since Waipahu HI employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, 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 a few law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other Waipahu HI legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also present an avenue for students to start developing contacts within the legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Waipahu HI legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it may be a good idea to select a paralegal school domiciled in Hawaii or the state where you wish to work after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the area Waipahu HI legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the community where you wish 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 wish to first consider those schools that are within your local area.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be accessible to help offset some of the cost, so be sure to check with the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Waipahu HI. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online program, some of these added expenses, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Waipahu HI, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you enroll in makes available that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Select the Right Paralegal Program near Waipahu HI
Choosing the best paralegal training program is a crucial 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 Waipahu residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in various lengths and formats. Different kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you elect to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to examine each school and make your final decision. And with the appropriate training you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Waipahu HI.
More About Waipahu Hawaii
Waipahu is a former sugarcane plantation town and now census-designated place (CDP) located in the ʻEwa District on the island of Oʻahu in the City & County of Honolulu, Hawaiʻi, United States. As of the 2010 Census, the CDP population was 38,216. The U.S. postal code for Waipahu is 96797.
Waipahu is the name of an artesian spring. In Hawaiian, Waipahu is derived from wai, meaning water, and pahū, meaning "burst or explode"; combined, Waipahu means "water forced up (as out of a spring)". The early Native Hawaiians took pleasure in the cool and clear water gushing from the ground and named this spring Waipahu. Before the Western civilization set foot in Hawaii, the Hawaiians considered Waipahu to be the capital of Oahu. Royalty in the Kingdom of Hawaii would often gather and enjoy the fresh water from the spring Waipahu.
In 1897, Oahu Sugar Company was incorporated, and its board of directors located the sugar mill in Waipahu. It had 943 field workers. There were 44 Hawaiians, including 10 minors; 57 Portuguese; 443 Japanese, 408 of them contract laborers; and 399 Chinese, 374 of whom were contract laborers. The company's managers from 1897 to 1940 were August Ahrens (1897–1904), E.K. Bull (1904–1919), J.B. Thomson (1919–1923), E.W. Greene (1923–1937), and Hans L'Orange (1937–1956).
In the early days of the plantation, each worker was assigned a number inscribed on a metal disc about the size of a silver dollar. The numbers 1 through 899 identified Japanese alien; 900 through 1400 were Japanese who were American citizens or Hawaii-born. The 2000 and 2100 series were Portuguese laborers, 2200 Spanish, 2300 Hawaiian, 2400 Puerto Rican, 3000 Chinese or Korean, 4000 and 5000 Filipino aliens, and Filipino Americans. The company imported laborers from many different countries including the Philippines, Japan, China, Portugal, and Norway. Very few laborers working for the Oahu Sugar Co. were Hawaiian. The majority of the company's first laborers were either Japanese or Chinese. Each ethnic group was broken up into different camps. This division was said[by whom?] to have been the result of different cultures and language barriers.
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