How to Find the Right Legal Assistant Training Program near Vienna Virginia
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Vienna VA and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. However, it’s essential that you find the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic options are being offered, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students begin by trying to find schools within traveling range of their Vienna homes. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program must be considered also. Later in this post we will cover a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill the same job roles and functions, 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 different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Vienna VA lawyers with a wide range of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their routine tasks may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, 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 prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Vienna VA is by obtaining a certificate, which may take as little as 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more expansive education and may be earned at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may want to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Virginia to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some 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 school (we will cover the benefits 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 Programs
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Vienna VA area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant factors to research also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Vienna VA law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Vienna VA law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the Vienna VA legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, particularly 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 graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Virginia legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws vary from one state to another, it may be a good idea to choose a paralegal school located in Virginia or the state where you want to work after graduating. Also, it will be important to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the area where you choose to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to first consider those colleges that are within the Vienna VA region.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be available to help reduce part of the expense, so make sure to contact the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Vienna VA. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while receiving their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Vienna VA, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in provides that option. Last, inquire what the protocol is for making-up missed classes because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Schools
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more popular and can be an excellent alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online classes can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, 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 sure that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a respected organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the ideal choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Vienna VA?
If you live near Vienna Virginia or perhaps are considering attending classes in that area, following is some interesting and useful information regarding the location of your new school campus.
Vienna (/viˈɛnə/) is a town in Fairfax County, Virginia, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, it had a population of 15,687. Significantly more people live in ZIP codes with the Vienna postal addresses (22180, 22181, and 22182) bordered approximately by Interstate 66 on the south, Interstate 495 on the east, Route 7 to the north, and Hunter Mill road to the west.
In August 2013, CNNMoney and Money magazine ranked Vienna, VA third on its list of the 100 best places to live in the United States. In addition to highly ranked public schools, its assets include a downtown with many small businesses, a Washington Metro station with large parking garages (the western terminus of the Orange Line) just south of the town, and a portion of the Washington & Old Dominion Railroad Regional Park hiker/biker trail cutting through the center of the town. Tysons Corner, a residential, commercial and shopping district, is nearby, as is Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts.
Non-native settlement in the region dates to ca. 1740. In 1754, prominent soldier and land owner Colonel Charles Broadwater settled within the town boundaries. Broadwater's son-in-law, John Hunter built the first recorded house there in 1767, naming it Ayr Hill (recalling his birthplace, Ayr, Scotland.) That name was subsequently applied to the tiny, developing community. The name of the town was changed in the 1850s, when a doctor named William Hendrick settled there on the condition that the town would rename itself after his hometown, Phelps, New York, then known as Vienna.
Post Baccalaureate Paralegal Certificate Vienna VA
Enrolling in the right paralegal studies degree school is a crucial 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 Post Baccalaureate Paralegal Certificate. But as we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Vienna residence. Paralegal academic programs are made available in numerous formats and lengths. Various kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, 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 broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you decide to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to evaluate each school and make your final selection. And with the right education you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Vienna VA.
Other Virginia Locations That May Be Of Interest
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