How to Choose a Paralegal Studies Program near Trinidad Colorado
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Trinidad CO and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. However, it’s essential that you find the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students begin by searching for schools within driving distance of their Trinidad residences. Of those choices, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school must be considered too. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold comparable job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Trinidad CO attorneys with a wide variety of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their routine tasks can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a legal assistant in Trinidad CO is by earning a certificate, which may require as little as six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. When you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to continue and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Colorado to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected certifying organizations 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 address the benefits 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.
Things to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Trinidad CO area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must know 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 most potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important aspects to think about also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Trinidad CO law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are often available only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as 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 Trinidad CO law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while attending school. They can also provide a means for students to start creating contacts within the Trinidad CO legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Colorado legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary among states, it might be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Colorado or the state where you plan to work after graduation. Also, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially look at those schools that are within the Trinidad CO area.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be accessible to help minimize part of the cost, so be sure to check with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Trinidad CO. Of course if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these added expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Trinidad CO, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you enroll in offers that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making up missed classes due to work, illness or family obligations.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Classes
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more prevalent and can be a good option for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially 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 online schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the right choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Trinidad CO?
If you live near Trinidad CO or perhaps you are considering attending classes in that area, following is some interesting and useful information regarding the location of your new school campus.
Trinidad is a Home Rule Municipality that is the county seat and the most populous city of Las Animas County, Colorado, United States. The population was 9,096 as of the 2010 census, up slightly from 9,078 in 2000. The estimate as of 2012 was 8,771. Trinidad lies 21 mi (33 km) north of Raton, New Mexico, and 195 mi (305 km) south of Denver. Trinidad is situated on the historic Santa Fe Trail.
Trinidad was first explored by Spanish and Mexican traders, who liked its proximity to the Santa Fe Trail. It was founded in 1862 soon after coal was discovered in the region. This led to an influx of immigrants, eager to capitalize on this important natural resource. By the late 1860s, the town had about 1,200 residents. Trinidad was officially incorporated in 1876, just a few months before Colorado became a state. An important milestone for the town occurred in 1878, when the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway reached Trinidad, making it easier for goods to be shipped from distant locations. In the 1880s, Trinidad became home to a number of well-known people, including Bat Masterson, who briefly served as the town's marshal in 1882. By 1900, the population of Trinidad had grown to 7,500. It was now home to two English-language newspapers, and one that was published in Spanish.
In the early 1900s, Trinidad became nationally known for having the first woman sports editor of a newspaper, Ina Eloise Young. Her expertise was in baseball, and in 1908, she was the only woman sportswriter to cover the World Series. During the same time, Trinidad was also home to a popular semiprofessional baseball team that was briefly coached by Damon Runyon.
Select the Right Paralegal Certificate Program near Trinidad CO
Selecting the right paralegal degree program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Trinidad home. Paralegal education programs are made available in numerous formats and lengths. Different kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you elect to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to assess each school and make your final decision. And with the right training you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Trinidad CO.
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