How to Select a Paralegal Program near Woodward Oklahoma
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Woodward OK and start your journey that will lead to a rewarding profession in legal services. However, it’s essential that you locate the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational options are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students begin by trying to find schools within driving range of their Woodward residences. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you need to take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program ought to be taken into account also. Later in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your choice. But first, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are offered to earn a paralegal certificate or degree.
Oklahoma Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold comparable job positions and functions, 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 different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Woodward OK attorneys with a diverse array of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their everyday tasks might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for Woodward OK lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a legal assistant is by earning a certificate, which can require as little as six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more extensive education and may be obtained at numerous Woodward OK area community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and earn a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Oklahoma to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded 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 Woodward OK area school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Classes
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more available in Woodward OK and can be an excellent option for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to individuals who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online classes can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a respected organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and conventional setting, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the right option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs accessible at Woodward OK area junior and community colleges, as well as 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 add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial factors to think about as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency 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 targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Woodward OK law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the Oklahoma legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no previous experience, since Woodward OK employers will have to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other Woodward OK legal establishment while attending school. They can also present a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Woodward OK legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it may be beneficial to choose a paralegal school located in Oklahoma or the state where you wish to work after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to create relationships in the local Woodward OK legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to first consider those colleges that are within your local area.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be obtainable to help minimize part of the cost, so don’t forget to contact the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Woodward OK. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these added costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Woodward OK, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select offers that option. Last, ask what the procedure is for making-up classes missed due to work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Right Legal Assistant School near Woodward OK
Enrolling in the right paralegal educational program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Woodward residence. Paralegal academic programs are made available in many formats and lengths. Different kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice 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 schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you decide to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to evaluate each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the right education you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Woodward OK.
More About Woodward Oklahoma
Woodward County, Oklahoma
Woodward County was originally known as "N" County and was composed of present-day Woodward County and portions of Harper, Ellis, and Woods County. Before its division at statehood, Woodward County, then 60 miles square, was the westernmost county of the Cherokee Outlet and adjoined Texas and the Oklahoma Panhandle on the west and Kansas on the north. Political pressure applied by William H. Murray during Oklahoma's Constitutional Convention resulted in the reduction of the size of Woodward County to its present boundaries. It is unknown exactly whom the county (and the town) is named after, but the two leading candidates are Brinton W. Woodward, a Santa Fe railway director, or Richard Woodward, a buffalo hunter.
In the 19th century, the county was part of a well-used military transportation corridor that was important to frontier defense. In 1868, Camp Supply, was established as a depot leading up to a campaign against the Cheyenne. From 1876 through the 1880s massive herds of cattle passed through the southwestern corner of the county along the Great Western Trail from Texas to Kansas.
The Southern Kansas Railway, later acquired by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway built a line southwest from Kiowa, Kansas, through the region and into Texas during 1886-1887. It began the town of Woodward where the railroad crossed the military road. The Wichita Falls and Northwestern Railway, controlled by the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway, constructed a north-south line from Elk City through Sharon, Woodward, and the town of Fort Supply to Forgan, in Beaver County, in 1911-12.
In September 1893, when the Cherokee Outlet opened for non-Indian settlement, Woodward County was created as County N in Oklahoma Territory, though its area was much larger than at present. In a November 6, 1894, election, the county was renamed Woodward County. Statehood in 1907 redrew the boundaries of the county, while the remainder was given to the present Harper, Ellis and Woods counties.
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