How to Choose the Right Paralegal School near Waynesburg Pennsylvania
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Waynesburg PA and begin your journey that will result in a satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you find the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably 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 on campus and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students start by trying to find schools within commuting distance of their Waynesburg homes. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school must be considered as well. Later on in this post we will review a list of questions that you ought to 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 options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold the same job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Waynesburg PA lawyers with a wide variety of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their daily activities may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be involved and very challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Waynesburg PA is by earning a certificate, which can take just 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more expansive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. Once you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may want to proceed and earn a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Pennsylvania to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Points to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can start the process of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Waynesburg PA area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other critical issues to think about also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program 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 might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Waynesburg PA law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of special 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. Verifying that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some Waynesburg PA law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Waynesburg PA legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Pennsylvania legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ among states, it may be beneficial to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Pennsylvania or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. Also, it will be important to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the community where you want to practice. 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 wish to first consider those colleges that are within the Waynesburg PA region.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be available to help reduce some of the cost, so don’t forget to contact the school’s financial aid office to find out what is available in Waynesburg PA. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, some of these added costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Waynesburg PA, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you select provides that option. Last, inquire what the protocol is for making-up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Programs
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs 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 especially appealing to those who keep working while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training 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 example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the ideal choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Waynesburg PA?
If you live near Waynesburg Pennsylvania or perhaps are considering attending classes in that area, following is some interesting and useful information regarding the location of your new school campus.
The region around Waynesburg is underlaid with several layers of coking coal, including the Pittsburgh No. 8 seam, the Waynesburg seam, and the Sewickley (Mapletown) seam. The area is also rich with coalbed methane, which is being developed from the underlying Marcellus Shale, the largest domestic natural gas reserve. Early in the 20th century, four large gas compressing stations and a steam shovel factory were located in Waynesburg.
Waynesburg is named for General "Mad" Anthony Wayne, one of the top lieutenants of George Washington during the Revolutionary War (1776–81). The borough is the location of Waynesburg University, and it is served by the Greene County Airport.
In August 1875 construction began of the 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge Waynesburg and Washington Railroad, conceived by John Day in 1874 and chartered in 1875. Its passenger service ended in 1929, and conversion to 4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge followed in 1944 as a wartime measure. Then the railroad was renamed the Waynesburg Secondary Railroad. Regular freight service ended on this line in 1976, though part of it still serves (irregularly) for railroad access to a coal mine.
Online ABA Paralegal Certificate Waynesburg PA
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal studies certificate 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 Online ABA Paralegal Certificate. But as we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Waynesburg home. Paralegal training programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Several kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you decide to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to review each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Waynesburg PA.
Other Pennsylvania Locations That May Be Of Interest