How to Choose a Paralegal Studies Program near West Medford Massachusetts
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near West Medford MA and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you find the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic alternatives are being offered, both at school 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 range of their West Medford homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be taken into account as well. Later on in this article we will review a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are offered to earn a paralegal certificate or degree.
Massachusetts Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold the same job positions and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help West Medford MA 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 duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but some of their daily tasks may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be involved and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for West Medford MA lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
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 prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a legal assistant is by earning a certificate, which may require just 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and can be earned at numerous West Medford MA area community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. When you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and get a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Massachusetts to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected 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 West Medford MA area school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Training
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more available in West Medford MA and can be a good alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to individuals who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the right choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Schools
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs available at West Medford MA area community and junior colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add 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 commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other important issues to research as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose need to be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of West Medford MA law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the Massachusetts paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since West Medford MA employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other West Medford MA legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with West Medford MA legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Since laws differ from one state to another, it may be advantageous to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Massachusetts or the state where you wish to work after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the neighboring West Medford MA legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased 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.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be accessible to help offset part of the expense, so make sure to check with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in West Medford MA. Of course if you opt to attend an online program, some of these additional costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near West Medford MA, verify classes are offered 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. Finally, find out what the process is for making-up missed classes due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Select the Right Paralegal Training near West Medford MA
Selecting the right paralegal educational program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your West Medford home. Paralegal academic programs are made available in numerous lengths and formats. Various kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed 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 have the ability to assess each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the right education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in West Medford MA.
More About West Medford Massachusetts
Medford is a city 3.2 miles northwest of downtown Boston on the Mystic River in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States. In the 2010 U.S. Census, Medford's population was 56,173. It is home to Tufts University.
Medford was settled in 1630 as part of Charlestown. The area was originally called "Mistick" by Thomas Dudley (a name which persisted for many decades), which his party renamed "Meadford". The name may have come from a description of the "meadow by the ford" in the Mystic River, or from two locations in England that Cradock may have known: the hamlet of Mayford or Metford in Staffordshire near Caverswall, or from the parish of Maidford or Medford (now Towcester, Northamptonshire). In 1634, the land north of the Mystic River became the private plantation of former Governor Matthew Cradock; across the river was Ten Hills Farm, which belonged to John Winthrop, Governor of the Massachusetts Bay colony.
In 1637, the first bridge (a toll bridge) across the Mystic River was built at the site of the present-day Cradock Bridge, which carries Main Street into Medford Square. It would be the only bridge across the Mystic until 1787, and as such became a major route for traffic coming into Boston from the north (though ferries and fords were also used). The bridge would be rebuilt in 1880 and 1909.
Until 1656, all of northern Medford was owned by Cradock, his heirs, or Edward Collins. Medford was governed as a "peculiar" or private plantation. As the land began to be divided among several people from different families, the new owners began to meet and make decisions locally and increasingly independently from the Charlestown town meeting. In 1674, a Board of Selectmen was elected, in 1684, the colonial legislature granted the ability to raise money independently, and in 1689, a representative to the legislature was chosen. The town got its own religious meeting room in 1690, and a secular meeting house in 1696.
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