How to Pick the Right Paralegal School near Wausau Wisconsin
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Wausau WI and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. However, it’s important that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students start by trying to find schools within traveling distance of their Wausau residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program should be taken into consideration as well. Later on in this post we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your choice. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both hold the same job roles and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Wausau WI attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their regular tasks might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be involved and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative duties more applicable 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 are able to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Wausau WI is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve just six months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. After you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Wisconsin to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected certifying organizations 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 program (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
What to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Wausau WI area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other significant issues to research as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Wausau WI law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Wausau WI law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while attending school. They can also present a means for students to start establishing contacts within the Wausau WI legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Wisconsin legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws differ among states, it might be beneficial to choose a paralegal school located in Wisconsin or the state where you want to work after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to build relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the community where you want to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to first consider those colleges that are within the Wausau WI region.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential received and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help reduce some of the expense, so make sure to consult with the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Wausau WI. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Wausau WI, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you choose offers that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making-up classes missed because of work, illness or family obligations.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Degrees
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more prevalent and can be a good option for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to individuals who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the right choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Wausau WI?
If you live near Wausau Wisconsin or perhaps are considering attending classes in that area, following is some interesting and useful information regarding the location of your new school campus.
Wausau is a city in and the county seat of Marathon County, Wisconsin, United States. The Wisconsin River divides the city into east and west. The city's suburbs include Schofield, Weston, Brokaw, Rib Mountain, Kronenwetter, and Rothschild.
As of the 2010 census, Wausau had a population of 39,106. It is the core city of the Wausau Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), which includes all of Marathon County and had a population of 134,063 at the 2010 census.
This area was occupied for thousands of years by succeeding cultures of indigenous peoples. The historic Ojibwe (also known in the United States as the Chippewa) occupied it in the period of European encounter. They had a lucrative fur trade for decades with French colonists and French Canadians. After the French and Indian War this trade was dominated by British-American trappers from the eastern seaboard.
Training For Paralegal Wausau WI
Selecting the best paralegal studies training program is an important 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 Training For Paralegal. But as we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Wausau home. Paralegal training programs are offered in many formats and lengths. Various types of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you decide to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to evaluate each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the right education you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Wausau WI.
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