How to Find a Paralegal Program near Westwego Louisiana
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Westwego LA and start your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you find the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic choices are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students start by trying to find schools within commuting distance of their Westwego homes. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be considered also. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your decision. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both fill the same job roles and functions, 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 classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Westwego LA lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but some of their regular tasks may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for attorneys. And because 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 otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Westwego LA is by earning a certificate, which may take as little as six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Louisiana to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your career 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 program (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
What to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Westwego LA area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other important issues to consider as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a recognized 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 distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Westwego LA law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically available only for accredited programs.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some Westwego LA law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also offer a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Westwego LA legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Louisiana legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws vary among states, it may be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school located in Louisiana or the state where you want to practice after graduating. Also, it will be important to develop relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to first consider those colleges that are within the Westwego LA area.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be available 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 Westwego LA. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, some of these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Westwego LA, 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 enroll in offers that option. Last, inquire what the protocol is for making-up classes missed due to work, illness or family obligations.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Classes
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more prevalent and may be a good option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to those who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online schools can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a reputable agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional environment, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Westwego LA?
If you live near Westwego LA 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.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 3.6 square miles (9.2 km²), of which 3.1 square miles (8.3 km²) is land and 0.5 square mile (1.0 km²) (10.64%) is water.
One story states generally that Westwego was so named because it was a major crossing point on the Mississippi river during the great westward movement of the late 19th century. When travelers were asked their destination, they would often reply "west we go". Another more specific tale, recounted in John Churchill Chase's Frenchmen, Desire, Good Children is that the name was the specific outcome of an 1871 meeting of a railroad board of directors in New York, where planning was undertaken to use the site as an eastern terminus ("...west we go from there"). There has been further speculation that this use of "Westwego" as a place name may have been influenced by the board members' familiarity with the name of Oswego, New York.
The area of Westwego, Louisiana was inhabited by Native Americans for thousands of years before Europeans settled here. These indigenous people created huge shells middens that can still be seen in the vicinity today. The French first developed the area in 1719 when French Minister of State LeBlanc started a plantation and a port along the Mississippi River. The port became an important site in the history of the transatlantic slave trade. The estate was later owned by the Zeringue family, who turned it into bustling sugar plantation, known as Seven Oaks. Planter Camille Zeringue built a canal at the plantation that played a prominent role in the community's history for decades. Other antebellum plantations in the area included the Whitehouse Plantation, Magnolia Lane, and the LaBranche Plantation among others. After Camille Zeringue's death, Seven Oaks was owned by Pablo Sala, who divided the property along the canal into lots, which he sold for $40 each. Many of these lots were purchased by displaced hurricane victims from Cheniere Caminada whose homes were destroyed in the great unnamed 1893 storm. With the addition of these families, who were mostly fisherman and trappers, the community of Salaville was born.
Find the Best Legal Assistant School near Westwego LA
Selecting the ideal paralegal educational program is an essential first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Westwego home. Paralegal academic programs are provided in numerous formats and lengths. Several types of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you decide to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to examine each school and make your final selection. And with the ideal training you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Westwego LA.
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