How to Pick a Paralegal College near Woodbury New York
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Woodbury NY and start your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational options are being offered, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students start by looking for schools within commuting range of their Woodbury homes. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you need to take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school must be taken into account too. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your choice. But first, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are available to earn a paralegal certificate or degree.
New York Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold the same job positions and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Woodbury NY lawyers with a wide range of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their daily tasks can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and rather 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 they are not restricted to administrative or clerical functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for Woodbury NY attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger volume 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. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a legal assistant is by earning a certificate, which may involve just six months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can be earned at numerous Woodbury NY area community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in New York to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected 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 degree or certificate from an accredited Woodbury NY area school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Classes
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more available in Woodbury NY and can be a good alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to those who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a respected organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal environment, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the ideal option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at Woodbury NY area community and junior colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other important aspects to research also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program 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 receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Woodbury NY law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the New York paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no previous work history, since Woodbury NY employers will have to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other Woodbury NY legal establishment while still in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Woodbury NY legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ from one state to another, it might be a good idea to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in New York or the state where you wish to work after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the neighboring Woodbury NY legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the area where you want to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to first investigate those colleges that are within your local area.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be accessible to help reduce some of the cost, so make sure to consult with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Woodbury NY. Naturally if you choose to attend an online school, some of these added expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while obtaining their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Woodbury NY, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you select makes available that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Select the Ideal Legal Assistant Certificate Program near Woodbury NY
Enrolling in the best paralegal educational program is a crucial 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 participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Woodbury home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Several kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But no matter how you decide to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your final selection. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Woodbury NY.
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