How to Pick the Right Paralegal Studies Certificate Program near Watertown Minnesota
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Watertown MN and begin your journey that will lead to a fulfilling career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you find the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic choices are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students begin by searching for schools within driving distance of their Watertown homes. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be considered too. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill comparable job roles 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 category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Watertown MN attorneys with a wide variety of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are relevant to 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 firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their regular activities can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be involved and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Watertown MN is by earning a certificate, which can take as little as 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. When you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Minnesota to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected 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 paralegal certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Watertown MN area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other critical factors to think about also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a reputable organization 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 training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Watertown MN law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some Watertown MN law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Bear 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 practice or other legal operation while attending school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start creating contacts within the Watertown MN legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Minnesota legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Since laws differ among states, it might be a good idea to choose a paralegal school located in Minnesota or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Watertown MN region.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential earned and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be available to help reduce some of the cost, so make sure to consult with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Watertown MN. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these additional expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Watertown MN, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you select provides that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Programs
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more prevalent and can be an excellent alternative for those looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online programs can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a reputable agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the right choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Watertown MN?
If you live near Watertown Minnesota or perhaps are considering attending classes in that area, following is some interesting and useful information regarding the location of your new school campus.
As of the census of 2010, there were 4,205 people, 1,564 households, and 1,075 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,623.6 inhabitants per square mile (626.9/km2). There were 1,697 housing units at an average density of 655.2 per square mile (253.0/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 95.8% White, 0.3% African American, 0.4% Native American, 0.8% Asian, 0.6% from other races, and 2.1% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.7% of the population.
There were 1,564 households of which 40.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 56.1% were married couples living together, 7.8% had a female householder with no husband present, 4.9% had a male householder with no wife present, and 31.3% were non-families. 25.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.65 and the average family size was 3.22.
The median age in the city was 34.3 years. 29.5% of residents were under the age of 18; 7.3% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 30.8% were from 25 to 44; 22.7% were from 45 to 64; and 9.7% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 49.2% male and 50.8% female.
Paralegal Studies Watertown MN
Selecting the best legal assistant 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 Paralegal Studies. But as we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Watertown residence. Paralegal training programs are made available in various lengths and formats. Various kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you decide to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to review each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the right training you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Watertown MN.
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