How to Select a Paralegal Studies Program near Umatilla Oregon
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Umatilla OR and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. However, it’s important that you find the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational choices are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students begin by trying to find schools within commuting distance of their Umatilla residences. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be taken into consideration as well. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your decision. But first, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic options that are offered to earn a paralegal certificate or degree.
Oregon Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold comparable job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Umatilla OR lawyers with a wide range of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the attorney’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 duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their day-to-day activities can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and very demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for Umatilla OR attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to start your career as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve as little as six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and may be earned at many Umatilla OR area community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Oregon to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded 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 Umatilla OR area program (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Training
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more available in Umatilla OR and can be an excellent alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to individuals who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet 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 reviewing are accredited by a reputable agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the ideal choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs available at Umatilla OR area community and junior colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to learn 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 most potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other crucial aspects to consider also, such as accreditation and the reputation 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 final selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also obtain 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 receive will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Umatilla OR law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the Oregon legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since Umatilla OR employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you choose 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 several law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other Umatilla OR legal enterprise 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 evaluating provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement 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 Umatilla OR legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it may be a good idea to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Oregon or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to create relationships in the neighboring Umatilla OR legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the community where you choose to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to first look at those colleges that are within your local region.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be available to help offset some of the cost, so be sure to talk to the school’s financial aid office to find out what is available in Umatilla OR. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Umatilla OR, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select makes available that option. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making-up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Find the Right Paralegal College near Umatilla OR
Choosing the ideal paralegal educational program is a crucial first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Umatilla home. Paralegal training programs are provided in various formats and lengths. Various types of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you elect to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to examine each school and make your final decision. And with the ideal training you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Umatilla OR.
More About Umatilla Oregon
Umatilla County, Oregon
Umatilla County /ˌjuːməˈtɪlə/ is a county located in the U.S. state of Oregon. As of the 2010 census, the population was 75,889. The county seat is Pendleton, but the largest city is Hermiston. The county is named for the Umatilla River.
Umatilla County is part of the Hermiston-Pendleton, OR Micropolitan Statistical Area. Portland State University projects that 80% of all growth in the MSA will occur in the immediate Hermiston vicinity between 2016 and 2035. It is included in the eight-county definition of Eastern Oregon.
Umatilla County was created on September 27, 1862, out of a portion of Wasco County. Adjustments were made to the county's boundaries following the creation of Grant, Morrow, Union, and Wallowa Counties. This legislative act also designated Marshall Station as the temporary county seat. An 1865 election selected Umatilla City, now known as Umatilla, as the county seat. With the development of wheat farming, population shifted to the north and east parts of the county, and a subsequent election in 1868 moved the county seat again to Pendleton.
The Umatilla Indian Reservation was established by the Treaty of Walla Walla in 1855. The Umatillas, Walla Wallas, and Cayuse tribes were resettled there, and is located immediately southeast of Pendleton.
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