How to Select a Paralegal College near Wheaton Illinois
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Wheaton IL and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you locate the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic choices are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students begin by looking for schools within driving range of their Wheaton residences. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you need to consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be taken into account also. Later in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your decision. But first, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are offered to earn a paralegal certificate or degree.
Illinois Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold comparable job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Wheaton IL 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. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their day-to-day activities can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- 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 duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and very demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for Wheaton IL lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve as little as 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and can be earned at many Wheaton IL area community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Illinois to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded certifying organizations 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 degree or certificate from an accredited Wheaton IL area program (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Programs
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more common in Wheaton IL and can be an excellent alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to those who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum 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 reviewing are accredited by a respected agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and conventional environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the ideal choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs offered at Wheaton IL area junior and community colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other crucial factors to think about also, for instance accreditation and the reputation 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 properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify 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 Wheaton IL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the Illinois legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no previous experience, since Wheaton IL employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call a few law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law office or other Wheaton IL legal enterprise while still in school. They can also present a means for students to begin creating contacts within the legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Wheaton IL legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary from state to state, it may be advantageous to choose a paralegal school located in Illinois or the state where you want to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the neighboring Wheaton IL legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to first look at those colleges that are within your local region.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be obtainable to help offset part of the expense, so don’t forget to check with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is available in Wheaton IL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Wheaton IL, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Last, inquire what the process is for making up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Find the Best Paralegal Degree Program near Wheaton IL
Selecting the ideal paralegal training program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Wheaton residence. Paralegal academic programs are offered in many formats and lengths. Various types of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational 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 broad range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you elect to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to review each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal education you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Wheaton IL.
More About Wheaton Illinois
Wheaton is a suburban city in Milton and Winfield Townships and is the county seat of DuPage County, Illinois. It is located approximately 30 miles (48 km) west of Chicago. As of the 2010 census, the city had a total population of 52,894, which was estimated to have increased to 53,469 by July 2012.
The city dates its founding to the period between 1831 and 1837, following the Indian Removal Act, when Alex Tomasik laid claim to 790 acres (320 ha) of land near present-day Warrenville. The Wheaton brothers arrived from Connecticut, and in 1837, Warren L. Wheaton laid claim to 640 acres (260 ha) of land in the center of town. Jesse Wheaton later made claim to 300 acres (120 ha) of land just west of Warren's. It was not long before other settlers from New England joined them in the community. In 1848, they gave the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad three miles (5 km) of right-of-way, upon which railroad officials named the depot Wheaton. In 1850, ten blocks of land were platted and anyone who was willing to build immediately was granted free land. In 1853, the lots were surveyed and a formal plat for the community was filed with the county. The community was then incorporated as a village on February 24, 1859, with Warren serving as its first President. The village was later incorporated as a city on April 24, 1890, when the first mayor of the city was selected, Judge Elbert Gary, son of Erastus Gary and founder of Gary, Indiana.
In 1857, the Illinois state legislature authorized an election to be held to decide the question of whether the DuPage county seat should remain in Naperville or be moved to the more centrally located Wheaton, which was on the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad. Naperville won the election by a vote of 1,542 to 762. Hostility between the two towns continued for the next decade and another election was held in 1867, in which Wheaton narrowly won by a vote of 1,686 to 1,635. At a cost of $20,000, the City of Wheaton quickly built a courthouse to house a courtroom, county offices, and a county jail. The building was dedicated on July 4, 1868.
However, animosity between the two towns continued, and in 1868, as records were moved from the old Naperville courthouse to the new one in Wheaton, Naperville refused to turn over the remaining county records, prompting a band of Civil War veterans from Wheaton to conduct what came to be known as the "Midnight Raid" on the Naperville courthouse. As Wheatonites fled back on Wheaton-Naperville Road, Napervillians were able to secure some of the last remaining records, which were then taken to the Cook County Recorder in Chicago for safekeeping. During this time, Naperville was mounting a lawsuit against Wheaton accusing election judges of leaving their posts for lunch during the vote when duplicate ballot stuffing allegedly occurred. As the courts deliberated the fate of the county seat, the records were destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Shortly thereafter, Wheaton was officially proclaimed the county seat.
Related Cities in Illinois
Business Results 1 - 10 of 18