How to Choose the Right Legal Assistant School near Summersville West Virginia
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Summersville WV and begin your journey that will result in a satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you locate the right school so that you will get 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 educational choices are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students start by searching for schools within traveling distance of their Summersville homes. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school should be considered as well. Later on in this post we will review a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your selection. But first, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold the same job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Summersville WV lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their regular tasks can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to manage 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 perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a paralegal in Summersville WV is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve just six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and can be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. Once you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and receive a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in West Virginia to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help establish 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 program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
What to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Summersville WV area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other significant issues to think about as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School 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 program, it might 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 obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Summersville WV law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically available 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 looking at. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Summersville WV law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to start creating contacts within the Summersville WV legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with West Virginia legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ from state to state, it might be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school located in West Virginia or the state where you plan to work after graduation. In addition, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the area where you desire to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Summersville WV area.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential received and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don’t forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be available to help reduce part of the expense, so don’t forget to consult with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Summersville WV. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, some of these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Summersville WV, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you select provides that option. Last, ask what the procedure is for making-up classes missed due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Schools
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more prevalent and may be an excellent option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to those who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can often be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a respected agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the ideal option for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Summersville WV?
If you live near Summersville West 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.
Summersville, West Virginia
Summersville is located at 38°17′0″N 80°50′39″W / 38.28333°N 80.84417°W / 38.28333; -80.84417 (38.283342, -80.844207). It is located just north of the Gauley River which is famous for its challenging whitewater. The river is impounded by a large dam which creates Summersville Lake, creating flatwater recreation as well.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 4.26 square miles (11.03 km2), of which, 4.22 square miles (10.93 km2) is land and 0.04 square miles (0.10 km2) is water.
The climate in this area has mild differences between highs and lows, and there is adequate rainfall year-round. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Summersville has a marine west coast climate, abbreviated "Cfb" on climate maps.
How To Obtain A Paralegal Certificate Summersville WV
Choosing the ideal paralegal 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 How To Obtain A Paralegal Certificate. But as we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Summersville home. Paralegal academic programs are made available in many lengths and formats. Several kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you decide to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to assess each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal education you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Summersville WV.
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