How to Pick the Right Paralegal Training Program near Washington West Virginia
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Washington WV and begin your journey that will result in a satisfying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic choices are becoming available, both at school and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students begin by trying to find schools within commuting distance of their Washington residences. Of those choices, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program should be considered also. Later on in this post we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your choice. But first, let’s take a look at exactly 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 essentially both fill comparable job positions and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Washington WV lawyers with a wide range of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their regular activities may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready 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 complex and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training 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 fastest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Washington WV is by earning a certificate, which can take as little as six months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more expansive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. After you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may want to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in West Virginia to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded 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 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 initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
What to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Washington WV area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other significant issues 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 considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Washington WV law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some Washington WV law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the Washington WV legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign 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 sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it might be advantageous to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in West Virginia or the state where you wish to work after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain 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 reside outside of their districts. So you may want to initially consider those schools that are within the Washington WV region.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in cost depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be available to help offset some of the expense, so be sure to talk to the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Washington WV. Naturally if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Washington WV, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in offers that option. Last, find out what the process is for making-up missed classes due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Degrees
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more common and can be an excellent option for those searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a reputable organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the right choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Washington WV?
If you live near Washington 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.
Washington metropolitan area
The Washington metropolitan area is the metropolitan area centered on Washington, D.C., the capital of the United States. The area includes all of the federal district and parts of the U.S. states of Maryland and Virginia, along with a small portion of West Virginia. While not a part of the Washington metropolitan area, St. Mary's County is part of the Baltimore–Washington metropolitan area.
The Washington metropolitan area is one of the most educated and most affluent metropolitan areas in the US. The metro area anchors the southern end of the densely populated Northeast megalopolis with an estimated total population of 6,133,552 as of the 2016 U.S. Census Bureau estimate[update], making it the sixth-largest metropolitan area in the nation and the largest metropolitan area in the Census Bureau's South Atlantic division.
The U.S. Office of Management and Budget defines the area as the Washington–Arlington–Alexandria, DC–VA–MD–WV metropolitan statistical area, a metropolitan statistical area used for statistical purposes by the United States Census Bureau and other agencies. The region's three largest cities are the federal territory of Washington, D.C., the county (and census-designated place) of Arlington, and the independent city of Alexandria. The Office of Management and Budget also includes the metropolitan statistical area as part of the larger Baltimore–Washington metropolitan area, which has a population of 9,546,579 as of the 2014 Census Estimate.
Paralegal Certificate Online Accredited Washington WV
Choosing the ideal paralegal training program is an essential 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 Paralegal Certificate Online Accredited. But as we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Washington residence. Paralegal training programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Various kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you elect to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to examine each program and make your final decision. And with the ideal training you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Washington WV.
Other West Virginia Locations That May Be Of Interest