How to Pick a Paralegal College near Whiting Indiana
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Whiting IN and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you locate the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic options are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students start by looking for schools within commuting distance of their Whiting residences. 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 factors you must consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school should be taken into account too. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your choice. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are offered to earn a paralegal certificate or degree.
Indiana Paralegals and Legal Assistants
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 same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Whiting IN attorneys with a wide range of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is typically billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but some of their day-to-day tasks might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for Whiting IN attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a legal assistant is by earning a certificate, which may involve as little as 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and can be obtained at many Whiting IN area community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. When you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may want to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Indiana to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few 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 certificate or degree from an accredited Whiting IN area program (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Training
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more common in Whiting IN and can be a good option for those searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to those who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a respected agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the ideal option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs available at Whiting IN area community and junior colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important factors to research as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose should be accredited by a recognized organization 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 focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Whiting IN law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the Indiana legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since Whiting IN employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, including those furnished 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 firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other Whiting IN legal establishment while still in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Whiting IN legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary from one state to another, it may be a good idea to select a paralegal school domiciled in Indiana or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to create relationships in the area Whiting IN legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the community where you want to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to first consider those colleges that are within your local area.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost depending on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help minimize some of the expense, so make sure to check with the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Whiting IN. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, some of these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Whiting IN, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you select provides that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making up missed classes due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Ideal Legal Assistant Degree Program near Whiting IN
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal degree program is an important first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Whiting home. Paralegal training programs are made available in many formats and lengths. Several types of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity 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 be able to evaluate each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the right training you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Whiting IN.
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