How to Choose the Right Paralegal Training Program near Shepherd Montana
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Shepherd MT and start your journey that will result in a fulfilling profession in legal services. However, it’s important that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic options are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students start by searching for schools within traveling range of their Shepherd homes. Of those options, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program ought to be taken into consideration also. Later in this article we will review a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both hold the same job positions and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Shepherd MT lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their daily activities can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complex and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Shepherd MT is by obtaining a certificate, which may require as little as six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. Once you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue and earn a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Montana to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few 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 cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Shepherd MT area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true if 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 previously discussed, there are other significant factors to think about also, for instance 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 thoroughly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a highly regarded 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 focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Shepherd MT law firms will only employ 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 Program’s Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs 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 make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Shepherd MT law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the Shepherd MT legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Montana legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Because laws vary from one state to another, it may be advantageous to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Montana or the state where you plan to work after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through 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, many charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to initially look at those colleges that are within the Shepherd MT area.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential received and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don’t forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be accessible to help minimize some of the cost, so make sure to consult with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Shepherd MT. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these added expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Shepherd MT, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you select provides that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making-up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Degrees
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more popular and may be a good alternative for those looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online schools can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a reputable organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the ideal choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Shepherd MT?
If you live near Shepherd Montana or perhaps are considering attending classes in that area, following is some interesting and useful information regarding the location of your new school campus.
Shepherd is a census-designated place (CDP) in Yellowstone County, Montana, United States. The population was 193 at the 2000 census. Shepherd is a Billings suburb located to the northeast. The unincorporated town was named after R.E. Shepherd, a prominent early settler and owner of the Billings Land and Irrigation Company and the Merchants National Bank.
As of the census of 2000, there were 193 people, 71 households, and 51 families residing in the CDP. The population density was 181.0 people per square mile (69.6/km²). There were 79 housing units at an average density of 74.1 per square mile (28.5/km²). The racial makeup of the CDP was 94.30% White, 4.15% Native American, and 1.55% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.52% of the population.
There were 71 households out of which 39.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.9% were married couples living together, 15.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 26.8% were non-families. 23.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 4.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.72 and the average family size was 3.23.
Paralegal Course Shepherd MT
Selecting the right paralegal training school is an important 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 Paralegal Course. But as we have addressed in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Shepherd residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in various lengths and formats. Several kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you choose to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to evaluate each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate training you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Shepherd MT.
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