How to Choose a Paralegal Studies Program near Walnut Grove Minnesota
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Walnut Grove MN and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. However, it’s essential that you locate the right 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 more and more educational choices are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students begin by trying to find schools within commuting range of their Walnut Grove residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program should be considered as well. Later on in this post we will review a list of questions that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your decision. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold the same job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Walnut Grove MN lawyers with a wide range of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but some of their routine activities can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and quite challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Walnut Grove MN is by earning a certificate, which can require as little as 6 months to complete. Most 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 extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might want to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Minnesota to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few of the highly regarded certifying organizations 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Things to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can start the process of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Walnut Grove MN area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other significant issues to think about also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Walnut Grove MN 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 programs you are considering. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program 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 confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Walnut Grove MN law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also provide a means for students to start establishing contacts within the Walnut Grove MN legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Minnesota legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Because laws differ from one state to another, it might be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Minnesota or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to build 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 want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to initially consider those colleges that are within the Walnut Grove MN region.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be accessible to help minimize part of the expense, so don’t forget to contact the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Walnut Grove MN. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, some of these additional costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Walnut Grove MN, verify 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 provides that option. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making up missed classes due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Schools
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more popular and may be a good option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to individuals who keep working while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can often be less expensive than more traditional 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 address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest quality. 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 supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the right choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Walnut Grove MN?
If you live near Walnut Grove MN 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.
Walnut Grove, Minnesota
Walnut Grove is the home of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum, dedicated to the author of the Little House on the Prairie books. Wilder and her family lived in the area for a part of her childhood and the location is used as the setting for the Plum Creek part of the Little House book series. Charles Ingalls, her father, was the community's first justice and her only brother, Charles Frederic 'Freddy' Ingalls (November 1, 1875 – August 27, 1876), was born in Walnut Grove. The name "Walnut Grove" was also used in the Little House on the Prairie television series; however, the program was filmed in California.
Walnut Grove gained more than 250 new residents between 2001 and 2006. The new residents are Hmong immigrants and their families. The influx of people has increased the population to nearly 900, and Hmong now comprise 42 percent of the students in the Westbrook-Walnut Grove School District.
As of the census of 2010, there were 871 people, 313 households, and 210 families residing in the city. The population density was 821.7 inhabitants per square mile (317.3/km2). There were 367 housing units at an average density of 346.2 per square mile (133.7/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 63.4% White, 0.5% Native American, 35.0% Asian, 1.0% from other races, and 0.1% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.1% of the population.
Find the Best Legal Assistant School near Walnut Grove MN
Enrolling in the best paralegal educational program is an essential first step to guarantee 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 Walnut Grove residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in numerous lengths and formats. Different kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you decide to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to assess each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the right education you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Walnut Grove MN.
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