How to Choose a Paralegal Degree Program near Sykesville Maryland
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Sykesville MD and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you find the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students start by searching for schools within driving range of their Sykesville residences. Of those options, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you need to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school should be considered also. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate 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 a paralegal certificate or degree.
Maryland Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold the same job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Sykesville MD lawyers with a wide range of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day activities may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be involved 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 proceeding. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for Sykesville MD attorneys. And since 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 basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to start your career as a legal assistant is by obtaining a certificate, which can take just 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive education and may be obtained at numerous Sykesville MD area community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. When you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might want to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Maryland to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected certifying agencies 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 certificate or degree from an accredited Sykesville MD area program (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Programs
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more popular in Sykesville MD and may be a good alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to those who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the ideal choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at Sykesville MD area community and junior colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other important aspects to research also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Sykesville MD law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the Maryland legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since Sykesville MD employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify 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 graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other Sykesville MD legal establishment while still in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Sykesville MD legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary from one state to another, it may be advantageous to choose a paralegal school located in Maryland or the state where you want to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the area Sykesville MD legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to first investigate those schools that are within your local region.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don’t forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be obtainable to help reduce some of the expense, so be sure to talk to the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Sykesville MD. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Sykesville MD, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you select provides that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making-up missed classes because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Select the Ideal Legal Assistant Certificate Program near Sykesville MD
Choosing the right paralegal educational program is an important first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Sykesville residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in many formats and lengths. Several kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you decide to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to assess each program and make your final decision. And with the appropriate education you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Sykesville MD.
More About Sykesville Maryland
Sykesville is a town in Carroll County, Maryland, United States. The town lies 20 miles west of Baltimore and 40 Miles north of Washington D.C. The population was 4,436 at the 2010 census. BudgetTravel.com named Sykesville, MD 'Coolest Small Town in America' in June 2016.
The land on which Sykesville sits started out as part of the 3,000-acre (12 km2) Springfield Estate, owned by wealthy Baltimore shipbuilder William Patterson. In 1803, Patterson's daughter Elizabeth, married Napoléon Bonaparte's younger brother Jérôme, but when she arrived in Europe as Jérôme's bride, Napoléon refused to let Betsy Patterson Bonaparte set foot on land. Napoléon refused the marriage of the two, and would not let Elizabeth set foot on France's soil. He was determined that Jerome marry into royalty, and sent Betsy back home. Denied by Napoléon, she was never able to see her husband again, leaving her to raise their son alone in the United States. Upon the death of William in 1824, his son George Patterson inherited the estate. In 1825, George Patterson sold 1,000 acres (4.0 km2; 1.6 sq mi) of Springfield Estate to his friend and business associate, James Sykes.
A tract of land on the Howard County side of the Patapsco River contained an old saw and grist mill. In 1830 Sykes replaced it with a newer mill and constructed a five-story stone hotel, to take care of railroad personnel and the tourist trade. In 1831 the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O) extended its main line to "Horse Train Stop", since Sykesville had yet to be named. Other businesses moved into the area, including two general stores, new mills, churches and a post office. In 1832 the town managed to gain control of a barn across the Patapsco River, the dividing line between Carroll and Howard County, but the citizens were forced to return the barn under threat of federal troops.
Much of the town was destroyed by a flood in 1868, ending a water rights dispute between the Sykesville mill and the Elba Furnace when both were damaged. The town was rebuilt on the Carroll County side of the river.
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