How to Select a Paralegal School near Weston Connecticut
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Weston CT and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic options are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students start by looking for schools within commuting distance of their Weston homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program ought to be taken into account too. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your decision. But first, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational choices 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 comparable job positions 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 separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Weston CT attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their routine tasks may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be involved and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
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. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a paralegal in Weston CT is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve as little as 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might choose to continue and earn a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Connecticut to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your job opportunities, but help establish 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Points to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can start the process of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Weston CT area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most prospective 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 crucial issues to research also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Weston CT law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Weston CT law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while still in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Weston CT legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Connecticut legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it might be beneficial to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Connecticut or the state where you want to work after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to initially investigate those schools that are within the Weston CT region.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be accessible to help minimize part of the cost, so don’t forget to check with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Weston CT. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these added expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Weston CT, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you choose makes available that option. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Programs
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more common and can be a good option for those looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to those who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school 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 supervised and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Weston CT?
If you live near Weston CT 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.
Weston is an affluent town in Fairfield County, Connecticut. The population was 10,179 at the 2010 census. The town is served by Route 57 and Route 53, both of which run through the town center. About 19% of the town's workforce commutes to New York City, about 45 miles (72 km) to the southwest.
Like many towns in southwestern Connecticut, Weston is among the most affluent communities in the United States. Data collected in 2011 showed that Weston had the highest median household income in Fairfield County, Connecticut, at US$205,173. In 2015, Connecticut Magazine rated Weston as the 9th best among towns in Connecticut with median home values over $325,000. The rating considers education, crime, economy, community engagement, and culture/leisure.
Aside from a handful of stores that form the town’s center, Weston has little commercial development and residential development is limited by two-acre zoning. Most of Devil's Den Preserve, a 1,746-acre (707 ha) nature reserve, which gets 40,000 visits a year, is located in the town.
Find the Best Paralegal School near Weston CT
Selecting the best paralegal degree program is a vital first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Weston residence. Paralegal training programs are made available in many formats and lengths. Various kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you choose to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to review each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the right training you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Weston CT.
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