How to Select a Paralegal Degree Program near Willow Hill Pennsylvania
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Willow Hill PA and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding career in legal services. However, it’s essential that you find the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic options are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students start by looking for schools within driving range of their Willow Hill homes. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you need to take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program ought to be taken into account also. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your choice. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold comparable job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Willow Hill PA attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their daily tasks may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
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. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Willow Hill PA is by earning a certificate, which may involve as little as 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might want to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Pennsylvania to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your career opportunities, but help substantiate 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 benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Points to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can start the process of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Willow Hill PA area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important factors to consider also, such as 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 researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Willow Hill PA law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Willow Hill PA law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while attending school. They can also present a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Willow Hill PA legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Pennsylvania legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary among states, it may be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Pennsylvania or the state where you wish to work after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the community where you choose to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Willow Hill PA region.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be accessible to help offset some of the expense, so don’t forget to check with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Willow Hill PA. Naturally if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Willow Hill PA, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select offers that option. Last, inquire what the process is for making-up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Classes
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more common and may be a good alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to those who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the right choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Willow Hill PA?
If you live near Willow Hill PA 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.
Willow Hill Covered Bridge
The Willow Hill Covered Bridge is a covered bridge located off U.S. Route 30 that spans Miller’s Run (which flows into Mill Creek, a tributary of the Conestoga River) in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, United States. It was built in 1962 by Roy Zimmerman as a reconstruction using parts of the Miller's Farm Covered Bridge, built in 1871 by Elias McMellen, and Good's Fording Covered Bridge, built in 1855. It crosses Mill Creek and is 93 feet long and 15 feet wide.
The bridge has a single span, wooden, double Burr arch trusses design with the addition of steel hanger rods. It is painted red, the traditional color of Lancaster County covered bridges, on the outside. The inside is unpainted. Both approaches to the bridge are painted in the traditional white color.
The bridge's WGCB Number is 38-36-43. Because it was constructed from two historic covered bridges, it is not listed on the National Register of Historic Places like most of the other covered bridges in the county. It is located at 40°1′30″N 76°12′11.9″W / 40.02500°N 76.203306°W / 40.02500; -76.203306.
Enroll in the Ideal Paralegal College near Willow Hill PA
Enrolling in the right paralegal degree program is a vital first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed 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 Willow Hill home. Paralegal training programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Different kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you choose to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to assess each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Willow Hill PA.
Other Pennsylvania Locations That May Be Of Interest