How to Pick a Paralegal Certificate Program near Whiteford Maryland
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Whiteford MD and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. However, it’s important that you locate the best school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students begin by searching for schools within driving range of their Whiteford residences. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program should be taken into consideration too. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your choice. But first, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill comparable job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Whiteford MD attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but some of their day-to-day tasks might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be involved and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. 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 alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a paralegal in Whiteford MD is by earning a certificate, which can require as little as 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. Once you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might choose to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Maryland to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some 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 obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Things to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Whiteford MD area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant issues to consider also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee 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 Whiteford MD law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Whiteford MD law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while attending school. They can also present an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Whiteford MD legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Maryland legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary among states, it might be advantageous to select a paralegal school located in Maryland or the state where you want to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be important to establish relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the area where you wish 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 might wish to initially look at those schools that are within the Whiteford MD region.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be available to help offset part of the expense, so make sure to contact the school’s financial aid office to find out what is available in Whiteford MD. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Whiteford MD, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you select provides that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Schools
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more available and may be a good alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online classes can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the right option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Whiteford MD?
If you live near Whiteford MD 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, a part of the Whiteford-Cardiff Historic District, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2005. Until 1978, this community was served by the Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad at milepost 42.4. Also on the National Register are the Broad Creek Soapstone Quarries and Slate Ridge School.
Select the Best Legal Assistant Degree Program near Whiteford MD
Selecting the right paralegal educational program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Whiteford residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Several types of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you choose to receive your education 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 ultimate selection. And with the right training you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Whiteford MD.
Other Maryland Locations That May Be Of Interest
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