How to Find a Paralegal Studies Program near Wood Ridge New Jersey
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Wood Ridge NJ and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you locate the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students begin by looking for schools within traveling distance of their Wood Ridge homes. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program must be taken into account also. Later in this article we will review a list of concerns that you need 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 alternatives that are offered to earn a paralegal certificate or degree.
New Jersey Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill comparable job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Wood Ridge NJ lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is normally billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their everyday tasks may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for Wood Ridge NJ lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which can take just 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more extensive education and may be earned at many Wood Ridge NJ area community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and get a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in New Jersey to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 Wood Ridge NJ area program (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Programs
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more available in Wood Ridge NJ and may be a good option for those looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to those who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online schools can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized 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 receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a reputable organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the right option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs available at Wood Ridge NJ area junior and community colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other critical factors to think about also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Wood Ridge NJ law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the New Jersey legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since Wood Ridge NJ employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other Wood Ridge NJ legal establishment while still in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Wood Ridge NJ legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws differ from state to state, it might be a good idea to choose a paralegal school domiciled in New Jersey or the state where you wish to work after graduation. Also, it will be important to build relationships in the local Wood Ridge NJ legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the area where you want to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to initially consider those colleges that are within your local region.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential received and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be accessible to help minimize part of the cost, so make sure to consult with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is available in Wood Ridge NJ. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these added costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Wood Ridge NJ, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you enroll in offers that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making-up classes missed because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Find the Right Paralegal School near Wood Ridge NJ
Enrolling in the best paralegal educational program is a vital first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Wood Ridge home. Paralegal education programs are provided in many lengths and formats. Various types of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But no matter 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 evaluate each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the right education you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Wood Ridge NJ.
More About Wood Ridge New Jersey
Wood-Ridge, New Jersey
Wood-Ridge is a borough in Bergen County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the borough's population was 7,626, reflecting a decline of 18 (-0.2%) from the 7,644 counted in the 2000 Census, which had in turn increased by 138 (+1.8%) from the 7,506 counted in the 1990 Census.
Wood-Ridge was incorporated as a borough by an act of the New Jersey Legislature on December 6, 1894, from portions of Bergen Township, based on the results of a referendum held the previous day. The borough was formed during the "Boroughitis" phenomenon then sweeping through Bergen County, in which 26 boroughs were formed in the county in 1894 alone.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the borough had a total area of 1.097 square miles (2.842 km2), including 1.097 square miles (2.841 km2) of land and <0.001 square miles (<0.001 km2) of water (0.01%).
As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 7,626 people, 2,939 households, and 2,072 families residing in the borough. The population density was 6,951.6 per square mile (2,684.0/km2). There were 3,051 housing units at an average density of 2,781.2 per square mile (1,073.8/km2). The racial makeup of the borough was 87.23% (6,652) White, 1.43% (109) Black or African American, 0.21% (16) Native American, 7.13% (544) Asian, 0.01% (1) Pacific Islander, 2.32% (177) from other races, and 1.67% (127) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 13.11% (1,000) of the population.
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