How to Enroll in the Right Legal Assistant Degree Program near Westville New Jersey
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Westville NJ and start your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require 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 academic alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students begin by trying to find schools within driving range of their Westville homes. Of those options, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be considered also. Later in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your selection. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold comparable job roles and responsibilities, only 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 Westville NJ lawyers with a wide range of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their regular activities can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Westville NJ is by obtaining a certificate, which can require as little as 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more extensive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. When you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in New Jersey to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Things to Ask Paralegal Schools
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Westville NJ area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other crucial issues to research also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School 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 school, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Westville NJ law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Westville NJ law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the Westville NJ legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with New Jersey legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws differ from state to state, it might be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in New Jersey or the state where you want to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the community where you want to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to first look at those colleges that are within the Westville NJ area.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help offset some of the expense, so don’t forget to consult with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Westville NJ. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, some of these added costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Westville NJ, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you choose makes available that option. Last, find out what the procedure is for making-up missed classes because of work, illness or family obligations.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Classes
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more common and may be an excellent alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to individuals who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss 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 sure that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a respected organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the right choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Westville NJ?
If you live near Westville New Jersey or perhaps are considering attending classes in that area, following is some interesting and useful information regarding the location of your new school campus.
Westville, New Jersey
Westville is a borough in Gloucester County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the borough's population was 4,288, reflecting a decline of 212 (-4.7%) from the 4,500 counted in the 2000 Census, which had in turn declined by 73 (-1.6%) from the 4,573 counted in the 1990 Census. The Borough of Westville is known as "The Gateway to South Jersey!"
Westville was formed as a borough by an act of the New Jersey Legislature on April 7, 1914, from portions of Deptford Township and West Deptford Township, based on the results of a referendum held on April 28, 1914. The borough was reincorporated on March 8, 1924. Legislation had been passed in 1900 to create Westville, but it had to have a majority vote in favor of the new municipality in both Deptford and West Deptford. The borough was named for Thomas West, who built a home in the area in 1775 that still stands.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the borough had a total area of 1.378 square miles (3.568 km2), including 1.024 square miles (2.652 km2) of land and 0.354 square miles (0.916 km2) of water (25.66%).
Paralegal Assistant Schools Westville NJ
Selecting the right legal assistant degree school is a vital 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 Assistant Schools. 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 Westville home. Paralegal academic programs are made available in many 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 pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you elect to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to examine each program and make your final selection. And with the right training you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Westville NJ.
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