How to Choose the Right Paralegal Course Near Sturgis South Dakota
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Sturgis SD and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic choices are being offered, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students begin by looking for schools within commuting range of their Sturgis homes. Of those options, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program must be considered also. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you must 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 exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill comparable job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Sturgis SD lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, including 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. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is typically billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as 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 firms where they are employed, but a few of their daily activities may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide 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 main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to start your career as a paralegal in Sturgis SD is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve as little as six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more extensive education and may be earned at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in South Dakota to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help establish 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 paralegal certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Courses
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more available and can be an excellent option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Sturgis SD students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online schools can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a respected organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the ideal choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Sturgis SD area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other critical issues to consider also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Sturgis SD law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually available only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Sturgis SD law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the Sturgis SD legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with South Dakota legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary among states, it might be a good idea to choose a paralegal school domiciled in South Dakota or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the area where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Sturgis SD area.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. Having said that, 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 as well. Financial aid may be obtainable to help reduce some of the expense, so don't forget to contact the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Sturgis SD. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, some of these added expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Sturgis SD, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you select provides that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making-up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Best Sturgis Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the right legal assistant degree school is a vital first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Sturgis residence. Paralegal training programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Several types of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you choose to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to examine each school and make your final decision. And with the appropriate education you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Sturgis South Dakota.