How to Find a Paralegal Training Program near Whitewood South Dakota
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Whitewood SD and start your journey that will result in a satisfying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you find the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational choices are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students begin by searching for schools within traveling range of their Whitewood residences. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you need to take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program should be considered as well. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your selection. But first, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill the same 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 separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Whitewood SD lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their regular activities might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- 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 very challenging. However, 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 limited to administrative or clerical functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Whitewood SD is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve just six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more expansive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. After you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in South Dakota to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
What to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Whitewood SD area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other important factors to think about also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose need to be accredited by a respected 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 online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Whitewood SD law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually available only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Whitewood SD law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the Whitewood SD legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably 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 programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with South Dakota legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it might be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in South Dakota or the state where you wish to work after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the area where you desire to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to initially look at those colleges that are within the Whitewood SD area.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in cost depending on the credential earned 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 supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be obtainable to help minimize part of the cost, so make sure to talk to the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Whitewood SD. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, some of these additional costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Whitewood SD, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you select makes available that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making-up classes missed due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Degrees
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more prevalent and may be an excellent alternative for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to those who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a respected organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Whitewood SD?
If you live near Whitewood SD 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.
Whitewood, South Dakota
As of the census of 2010, there were 927 people, 374 households, and 232 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,448.4 inhabitants per square mile (559.2/km2). There were 392 housing units at an average density of 612.5 per square mile (236.5/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 91.9% White, 0.8% African American, 3.7% Native American, 0.1% Asian, 0.3% from other races, and 3.2% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.5% of the population.
There were 374 households of which 33.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 46.8% were married couples living together, 8.3% had a female householder with no husband present, 7.0% had a male householder with no wife present, and 38.0% were non-families. 30.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.44 and the average family size was 3.05.
The median age in the city was 38.8 years. 26.9% of residents were under the age of 18; 6.5% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 23.7% were from 25 to 44; 28.8% were from 45 to 64; and 14.1% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 50.6% male and 49.4% female.
Choose the Right Paralegal Training near Whitewood SD
Choosing the right paralegal degree program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Whitewood home. Paralegal education programs are made available in many formats and lengths. Various kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you choose to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to examine each program and make your final decision. And with the appropriate education you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Whitewood SD.
Other South Dakota Locations That May Be Of Interest