How to Enroll in the Right Legal Assistant Program near Watertown Massachusetts
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Watertown MA and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying career 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 be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational choices are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students begin by looking for schools within traveling distance of their Watertown homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be considered also. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your decision. But first, let’s have a look at 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 essentially both fill the same job roles and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Watertown MA lawyers with a wide variety of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their routine tasks might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a paralegal in Watertown MA is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve as little as six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and can be acquired 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 also. After you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Massachusetts to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly regarded 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
What to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Watertown MA area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant issues to think about as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at 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 decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may 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 standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Watertown MA law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Watertown MA law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also provide a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Watertown MA legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Massachusetts legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it may be beneficial to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Massachusetts or the state where you want to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be important to develop relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the area where you want 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 want to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Watertown MA area.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be accessible to help minimize some of the cost, so make sure to contact the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Watertown MA. Naturally if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Watertown MA, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Last, ask what the process is for making-up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Schools
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more available and can be a good option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to individuals who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are reviewing 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 conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the right choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Watertown MA?
If you live near Watertown Massachusetts or perhaps are considering attending classes in that area, following is some interesting and useful information regarding the location of your new school campus.
Watertown is a city in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, and part of the Greater Boston area. It is officially recognized as the Town of Watertown, despite having been granted city forms of government, making it one of thirteen Massachusetts municipalities that retain "The town of" in their official names while being classified as cities. The population was 31,915 at the 2010 census. Watertown is made up of six neighborhoods: Bemis, the Brigham Historic District, Coolidge Square, East Watertown, Watertown Square, and the West End.
Founded in 1630, Watertown was one of the first Massachusetts Bay Colony settlements and was originally ranked alongside Boston (the present-day capital of Massachusetts) in population and area. The city is home to the Perkins School for the Blind, the Armenian Library and Museum of America, and the historic Watertown Arsenal, which was prominently used in both World War I and II. It has since had part of it renovated into a shopping center named Arsenal Yards, with another part now being used as the headquarters for Athenahealth.
Archeological evidence suggests that Watertown was inhabited for thousands of years before the arrival of settlers from England. Two tribes of Massachusett, the Pequossette and the Nonantum, had settlements on the banks of the river later called the Charles. The Pequossette built a fishing weir to trap herring at the site of the current Watertown Dam. The annual fish migration, as both alewife and blueback herring swim upstream from their adult home in the sea to spawn in the fresh water where they were hatched, still occurs every spring.
Paralegal Schooling Watertown MA
Choosing the right paralegal studies training school is an important first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about Paralegal Schooling. But as we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Watertown residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in numerous formats and lengths. Various kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But no matter how you decide to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to review each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal training you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Watertown MA.
Other Massachusetts Locations That May Be Of Interest
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