How to Choose a Paralegal Training Program near Waialua Hawaii
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Waialua HI and start your journey that will lead to a fulfilling career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students begin by searching for schools within commuting distance of their Waialua homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you need to take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program ought to be taken into account too. Later in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your choice. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill comparable job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Waialua HI attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their regular tasks might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be involved and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career as a paralegal in Waialua HI is by obtaining a certificate, which may take just six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more extensive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Hawaii to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
What to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Waialua HI area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important issues to think about also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Waialua HI law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Waialua HI law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Waialua HI 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 pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Hawaii legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Since laws differ among states, it might be a good idea to choose a paralegal school located in Hawaii or the state where you wish to work after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the area where you choose to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially consider those schools that are within the Waialua HI area.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential received and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be obtainable to help reduce part of the cost, so make sure to talk to the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Waialua HI. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, some of these additional expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Waialua HI, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you select makes available that option. Last, inquire what the protocol is for making up classes missed due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Programs
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more common and may be an excellent option for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to those who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online classes can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater 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 thinking about are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Waialua HI?
If you live near Waialua HI 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.
Waialua is a census-designated place and North Shore community in the Waialua District on the island of Oʻahu, City & County of Honolulu, Hawaii, United States. As of the 2010 Census, the CDP had a population of 3,860.
Waialua was one of the six original districts of ancient Hawaii on the island, known as moku. Waialua is a former (sugar) mill town and residential area, quite different in its quiet ambiance from nearby Haleʻiwa, which is more commercial and tourist oriented. The Waialua Sugar Mill is the center of this town and the historical base of its plantation history.
Waialua is located at 21°34'31" North, 158°7'46" West (21.575300, -158.129457), southwest of Haleʻiwa, reached on Waialua Beach Road (State Rte. 82) or Kaukonahua Road (State Rte. 830). Kaukonahua Road turns eastward and, as State Rte. 803 then 801 runs up into the central plateau of Oʻahu to Wahiawā or (as 803) to Schofield Barracks. Farrington Highway (State Rte. 930) runs westward to Mokulēʻia.
Choose the Right Legal Assistant Program near Waialua HI
Enrolling in the right paralegal degree program is a vital first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Waialua home. Paralegal education programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Several kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you elect to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to assess each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal education you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Waialua HI.
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