How to Pick a Paralegal Degree Program near Woodridge Illinois
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Woodridge IL and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. However, it’s important that you find the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational options are being offered, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students begin by trying to find schools within traveling distance of their Woodridge homes. Of those choices, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program must be taken into consideration as well. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your choice. But first, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold the same job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Woodridge IL lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal 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 degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their regular activities may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Woodridge IL is by earning a certificate, which may involve as little as six months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. When you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Illinois to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your career 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
What to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Woodridge IL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other critical aspects to research as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Woodridge IL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Woodridge IL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to start creating contacts within the Woodridge IL legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Illinois legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Because laws differ from one state to another, it may be advantageous to select a paralegal school located in Illinois or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be important to create relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to first look at those schools that are within the Woodridge IL region.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. However, 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 expense, so make sure to contact the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Woodridge IL. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Woodridge IL, 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 choose offers that option. Last, ask what the procedure is for making-up classes missed because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Schools
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more prevalent and can be an excellent option for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to those who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online schools can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a respected agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes 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 Woodridge IL?
If you live near Woodridge IL 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.
Woodridge is a village in DuPage County, Illinois, with portions in Will and Cook counties, and a south-western suburb of Chicago. It uses the 630 and 331 area codes. The population was 32,971 at the 2010 census. Woodridge is the home of the Home Run Inn pizzeria chain and was the home of Pabst Brewing Company from 2006-2011.
Woodridge was incorporated on August 24, 1959, with less than 500 residents, on a wooded area of high ground overlooking the DuPage River's East Branch. Woodridge is a young community with the vast majority of its homes, businesses, and churches constructed after the 1950s. Woodridge was founded by a housing developer, Albert Kaufman, who was largely responsible for the creation of the village.
In July 2007, Woodridge was ranked No. 61 on Money magazine's "100 Best Places to Live". Woodridge, along with its neighbor Downers Grove are commonly referred to as "Downers-Woodridge".
Choose the Best Legal Assistant Training near Woodridge IL
Selecting the best paralegal educational program is an important first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Woodridge residence. Paralegal academic programs are offered in many formats and lengths. Several types of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you elect to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to review each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the right training you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Woodridge IL.
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