How to Pick a Paralegal Studies Program near Wilkes Barre Pennsylvania
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Wilkes Barre PA and begin your journey that will result in a satisfying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational choices are becoming available, both at school and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students start by searching for schools within commuting range of their Wilkes Barre homes. Of those options, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program must be taken into account as well. Later in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your decision. But first, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are offered to earn a paralegal certificate or degree.
Pennsylvania Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold comparable job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Wilkes Barre PA 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 are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their everyday activities may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys 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 very challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for Wilkes Barre PA attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, 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 requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a legal assistant is by earning a certificate, which may take just 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be obtained at many Wilkes Barre PA area community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Pennsylvania to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. 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 Wilkes Barre PA area school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Classes
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more prevalent in Wilkes Barre PA and can be an excellent option for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the ideal option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Schools
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can start the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs accessible at Wilkes Barre PA 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 particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most potential 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 important issues to think about as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Wilkes Barre PA law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the Pennsylvania legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no previous experience, since Wilkes Barre PA employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other Wilkes Barre PA legal operation while remaining in school. They can also offer a means for students to begin developing 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 entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Wilkes Barre PA legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Since laws differ among states, it may be advantageous to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Pennsylvania or the state where you want to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to create relationships in the local Wilkes Barre PA legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the area where you choose to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to first investigate those schools that are within your local area.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential received and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be available to help minimize part of the cost, so be sure to check with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Wilkes Barre PA. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Wilkes Barre PA, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you enroll in provides that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making up classes missed because of work, illness or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Paralegal Degree Program near Wilkes Barre PA
Selecting the right paralegal training program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Wilkes Barre residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in numerous lengths and formats. Various types of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as 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, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But no matter how you decide 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 decision. And with the appropriate training you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Wilkes Barre PA.
More About Wilkes Barre Pennsylvania
Wilkes-Barre (/ˈwɪlksˌbɛər/ or /-bɛəri/) is a city in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the county seat of Luzerne County. It is one of the principal cities in the Scranton–Wilkes-Barre–Hazleton, PA Metropolitan Statistical Area. Located at the center of the Wyoming Valley, it is second in size to the nearby city of Scranton. The Scranton–Wilkes-Barre–Hazleton, PA Metropolitan Statistical Area had a population of 563,631 as of the 2010 Census, making it the fourth-largest metro/statistical area in the state of Pennsylvania. Wilkes-Barre and the surrounding Wyoming Valley are framed by the Pocono Mountains to the east, the Endless Mountains to the west, and the Lehigh Valley to the south. The Susquehanna River flows through the center of the valley and defines the northwestern border of the city.
Wilkes-Barre was founded in 1769 and formally incorporated in 1806. The city grew rapidly in the 19th century after the discovery of nearby coal reserves and the arrival of hundreds of thousands of immigrants who provided a labor force for the local mines. The coal mining fueled industrialization in the city, which reached the height of its prosperity in the first half of the 20th century. Its population peaked at more than 86,000. Following World War II, the city's economy declined due to the collapse of industry. The Knox Mine disaster accelerated this trend after large portions of the area's coal mines were flooded and could not be reopened. Today the city has a population of 40,569, making it the largest city in Luzerne County and the 13th-largest city in Pennsylvania.
In the early 18th century, the Wyoming Valley was inhabited by the Shawanese and Delaware Indian (Lenape) tribes. By 1769, John Durkee led the first recorded Europeans to the area. They established a frontier settlement named Wilkes-Barre after John Wilkes and Isaac Barré, two British members of Parliament who supported colonial America.
The initial settlers were aligned with colonial Connecticut, which had a claim on the land that rivaled Pennsylvania's. Armed men loyal to Pennsylvania twice attempted to evict the residents of Wilkes-Barre in what came to be known as the Pennamite–Yankee Wars. After the American Revolution, in the 1780s, the conflict was eventually settled. The disputed land was granted to Pennsylvania. The location of modern-day Wilkes-Barre became part of Northumberland County. However, Connecticut settlers, who were still living in the area, wanted to create a new state in northeastern Pennsylvania. Timothy Pickering was sent to the region to politically examine the situation. This led to the Pennsylvania Assembly passing a resolution which created Luzerne County. This ended the idea of creating a new state. Luzerne County was created from part of Northumberland County on September 25, 1786. Wilkes-Barre became the seat of government for the new territory. Under Pickering’s leadership and direction, county elections were held, the courts were established, and a government was formed.
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