How to Choose a Paralegal Program near Waterboro Maine
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Waterboro ME and start your journey that will lead to a fulfilling career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you find the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students start by trying to find schools within traveling range of their Waterboro residences. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be considered also. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your choice. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both fill comparable job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Waterboro ME attorneys with a wide variety of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but some of their day-to-day tasks can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and quite challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Waterboro ME is by earning a certificate, which can take just 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. Once you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Maine to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly regarded 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
What to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Waterboro ME area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important aspects to consider also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a recognized 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 focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Waterboro ME law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, 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 call several Waterboro ME law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also present a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Waterboro ME legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Maine legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Because laws vary among states, it might be beneficial to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Maine or the state where you want to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be important to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the area where you choose to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to first investigate those colleges that are within the Waterboro ME area.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help reduce part of the expense, so make sure to check with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is available in Waterboro ME. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, some of these additional costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Waterboro ME, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you choose offers that option. Last, find out what the process is for making-up missed classes due to work, illness or family obligations.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Classes
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more popular and may be a good option for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a reputable agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Waterboro ME?
If you live near Waterboro ME 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.
The town includes the districts of North (04061), South (04087), and East (04030) Waterboro, in addition to the largest development in southern Maine, Lake Arrowhead Community. The introduction of Maine subdivision regulation, and Maine Planning Boards, is the direct result of the creation of the largest subdivision, Lake Arrowhead Community. The reaction of the Maine State Legislature was mandatory Planning Boards, and subdivision regulation.
Abenaki Indians called the area Massabesic, meaning "the place of much water", a reference to the region's lakes. It was part of an extensive tract of land purchased in 1661 by Major William Phillips of Saco from Chief Fluellin. Known as Massabesic Plantation, it included most of modern-day Waterboro, Alfred and Sanford. Phillips died in 1683, and the plantation eventually passed from his heirs to 10 proprietors. One of those proprietors was Colonel Joshua Waters, for whom the town would be named.
Lumbering began to thrive there about 1764. Captain John Smith from Kittery was the first permanent settler, arriving in 1768. On March 6, 1787, the Massachusetts General Court incorporated the township as Waterborough. In 1790, Old Corners became the site of the Court of General Sessions, although in 1805 the county seat shifted to Alfred. In 1895, the name was shortened to Waterboro.
Select the Right Paralegal College near Waterboro ME
Selecting the right paralegal educational program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Waterboro home. Paralegal education programs are offered in numerous formats and lengths. Different kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you choose to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to evaluate each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate education you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Waterboro ME.
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