How to Pick a Paralegal School near Wilburton Oklahoma
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Wilburton OK and start your journey that will lead to a fulfilling profession in legal services. However, it’s important that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational options are being offered, both at school and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students begin by searching for schools within commuting distance of their Wilburton homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you need to consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school need to be considered as well. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you need to ask prospective 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 exactly what a paralegal does and the educational options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill comparable 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 are part of a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Wilburton OK attorneys with a diverse array of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their day-to-day tasks may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able 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 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 start your career as a paralegal in Wilburton OK is by obtaining a certificate, which may take as little as 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Oklahoma to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your job opportunities, but help substantiate 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 advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Wilburton OK area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other critical aspects to research also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might 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 get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Wilburton OK law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, 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 Wilburton OK law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also present a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Wilburton OK legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering 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 hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Oklahoma legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws differ from state to state, it might be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Oklahoma or the state where you want to work after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially consider those colleges that are within the Wilburton OK region.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don’t forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be accessible to help offset part of the cost, so be sure to check with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Wilburton OK. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these added expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Wilburton OK, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you select offers that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Programs
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more available and can be a good alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to individuals who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Wilburton OK?
If you live near Wilburton OK 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.
Wilburton is a city in Latimer County, Oklahoma, United States. It is the county seat of Latimer County. The city had a population of 2,843 at the 2010 census, a decline of 4.3 percent from 2,972 in 2000.Robbers Cave State Park is 5 miles (8.0 km) north of Wilburton.
The community now known as Wilburton was originally established as a group of settlers living around Riddle's Station, a stop for the Butterfield Overland Mail stagecoach along the trail from Fort Smith, Arkansas to Fort Worth, Texas. Riddle's Station was built in 1858 and the Overland Stage operated from 1857 to 1861. According to the Oklahoma Encyclopedia of History and Culture, it was likely named for Will Burton, a contractor and surveyor who was involved in platting the townsite and building the Choctaw Coal and Railway Company line from Wister to McAlester. According to Oklahoma Place Names, it was named after Elisha Wilbur, who was the president of the Lehigh Valley Railroad. The post office was established in 1891.
Initially, the local economy was based on cattle production and shipping. Then, during the 1890s and early 20th century, coal mining became the largest industry. In 1909, the state established the Oklahoma School of Mines and Metallurgy in Wilburton. The school name was later changed to Eastern Oklahoma A&M College, and is now known as Eastern Oklahoma State College.
Enroll in the Right Paralegal Program near Wilburton OK
Enrolling in the best paralegal educational program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Wilburton home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Several kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school 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 programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you choose to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to review each program and make your final decision. And with the appropriate training you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Wilburton OK.
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