How to Find the Right Legal Assistant School near Watseka Illinois
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Watseka IL and start your journey that will lead to a rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic options are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students begin by trying to find schools within driving distance of their Watseka residences. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school need to be considered too. Later in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your decision. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold the same job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Watseka IL lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their routine tasks may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be involved and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, 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 requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to start your career as a paralegal in Watseka IL is by obtaining a certificate, which can take just 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. After you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and obtain a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Illinois to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Things to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Watseka IL area, 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 when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many potential 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 important issues to research also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a recognized organization 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 learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Watseka IL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some Watseka IL law firms that you may be interested 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 could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also present a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Watseka IL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Illinois legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws vary among states, it might be beneficial to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Illinois or the state where you plan to work after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to build relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the community where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to initially look at those colleges that are within the Watseka IL region.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be accessible to help minimize some of the cost, so don’t forget to consult with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is available in Watseka IL. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online program, some of these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while getting their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Watseka IL, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you select offers that option. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Training
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more common and may be an excellent alternative for those looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to those who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a respected organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the right choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Watseka IL?
If you live near Watseka Illinois or perhaps are considering attending classes in that area, following is some interesting and useful information regarding the location of your new school campus.
The Old Iroquois County Courthouse was constructed in 1866, with two additions built in 1881 and 1927. In the early 1960s, an Iroquois County resident, Mrs. Katherine Clifton, bequeathed to the county in her will a large sum of money and a site upon which to build a new courthouse. It is the only courthouse in the United States built entirely with private funds.
The old courthouse was advertised for sale and fell into disuse. In 1967, during the Centennial Celebration of Watseka, the Iroquois County Historical Society was organized, and circulated petitions throughout the county not to sell the Old Courthouse. The petitions were approved by the County Board of Supervisors, and the Old Courthouse re-opened as a museum that same year. In 1975, the Old Courthouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Watseka is located near the center of Iroquois County, at the intersection of U.S. Route 24 and Illinois Route 1. The Iroquois River winds along the north side of the town and is joined by Sugar Creek on the west side of town. The south half of the town is in Belmont Township; the north half is in Middleport Township. According to the 2010 census, Watseka has a total area of 3.05 square miles (7.90 km2), all land.
Accredited Paralegal Degree Online Watseka IL
Enrolling in the right legal assistant certificate program is a vital first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about Accredited Paralegal Degree Online. But as we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Watseka home. Paralegal education programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Different kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But no matter how you elect to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to review each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal training you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Watseka IL.
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