How to Enroll in the Right Paralegal Degree Program near Winthrop Maine
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Winthrop ME and begin your journey that will lead to a fulfilling profession in legal services. However, it’s important that you find the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students start by trying to find schools within driving distance of their Winthrop residences. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you need to consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program must be taken into consideration as well. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your choice. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill comparable 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 belong to a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Winthrop ME lawyers with a wide range of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically 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 noted, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their routine tasks can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Winthrop ME is by earning a certificate, which may require as little as 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Maine to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected certifying organizations in the profession 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 address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Winthrop ME area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other important aspects to consider also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency 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 targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Winthrop ME law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically available only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Winthrop ME law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Winthrop ME legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Maine legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws differ from one state to another, it may be a good idea to choose a legal assistant school located in Maine or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to cultivate 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 area where you choose to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially look at those colleges that are within the Winthrop ME region.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost depending on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don’t forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be available to help offset some of the expense, so make sure to talk to the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Winthrop ME. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, some of these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while getting their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Winthrop ME, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you select offers that option. Last, find out what the procedure is for making-up missed classes because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Degrees
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more available and can be an excellent alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online schools can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Winthrop ME?
If you live near Winthrop Maine or perhaps are considering attending classes in that area, following is some interesting and useful information regarding the location of your new school campus.
Winthrop is a town in Kennebec County, Maine, United States. The population was 6,092 at the 2010 census. Winthrop's population, however, approximately doubles during the summer months as part-year residents return to seasonal camps located on the shores of Winthrop's Lakes and Ponds. A recreational area located among lakes, the town includes the villages of Winthrop and East Winthrop, and is the center of the Winthrop Lakes Region. Winthrop is included in the Augusta, Maine Micropolitan New England City and Town Area.
Winthrop was part of the Kennebec Purchase awarded by the Plymouth Council for New England. First called Pondtown for its lakes and ponds, it was settled by Timothy Foster in 1765. On April 26, 1771, Pondtown Plantation was incorporated by the Massachusetts General Court as Winthrop, named for the first colonial governor of Massachusetts, John Winthrop.Readfield was set off and incorporated in 1791. The surface of the town is uneven, but with good land that yielded hay, grain and apples. Winthrop became noted for its orchards and cattle.
At the outlet of Maranacook Lake into Annabessacook Lake, John Chandler built a sawmill in 1768, and then added a gristmill. Other industries followed, including a fulling mill, tannery and blacksmith shop. The Winthrop Woolen & Cotton Manufactory was incorporated in 1809, and in 1814 went into operation. By 1886, the town had a sawmill which manufactured about 200,000 feet of lumber every year, two oil cloth factories, a sash and blind factory, and a foundry and machine shop. The Maine Central Railroad opened to the village, carrying freight and tourists. Winthrop and its lakes developed into a summer resort, which it remains today.
Top Online Paralegal Certificate Programs Winthrop ME
Selecting the best paralegal training program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about Top Online Paralegal Certificate Programs. But as we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Winthrop residence. Paralegal training programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Various kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, 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 career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you decide to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to assess each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the right training you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Winthrop ME.
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