How to Choose a Paralegal Program near Vienna Virginia
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Vienna VA and begin your journey that will result in a satisfying career in legal services. However, it’s essential that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students begin by searching for schools within driving range of their Vienna homes. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you ought to consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program must be taken into consideration also. Later on in this article we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your decision. But first, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold comparable job positions and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Vienna VA lawyers 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 are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but some of their routine activities might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. 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 limited to administrative or clerical duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Vienna VA is by obtaining a certificate, which may take just 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more extensive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Virginia to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
What to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can start the process of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Vienna VA area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other critical factors to consider as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Vienna VA law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Vienna VA law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer 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 creating contacts within the Vienna VA legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Virginia legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws vary from one state to another, it may be a good idea to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Virginia or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the area where you want to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially consider those schools that are within the Vienna VA area.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be obtainable to help reduce part of the expense, so make sure to talk to the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Vienna VA. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online school, some of these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Vienna VA, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you choose provides that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Programs
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more prevalent and can be a good alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to those who keep working while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the right choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Vienna VA?
If you live near Vienna VA 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.
Vienna (/viˈɛnə/) is a town in Fairfax County, Virginia, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, it had a population of 15,687. Significantly more people live in ZIP codes with the Vienna postal addresses (22180, 22181, and 22182) bordered approximately by Interstate 66 on the south, Interstate 495 on the east, Route 7 to the north, and Hunter Mill road to the west.
In August 2013, CNNMoney and Money magazine ranked Vienna, VA third on its list of the 100 best places to live in the United States. In addition to highly ranked public schools, its assets include a downtown with many small businesses, a Washington Metro station with large parking garages (the western terminus of the Orange Line) just south of the town, and a portion of the Washington & Old Dominion Railroad Regional Park hiker/biker trail cutting through the center of the town. Tysons Corner, a residential, commercial and shopping district, is nearby, as is Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts.
Non-native settlement in the region dates to ca. 1740. In 1754, prominent soldier and land owner Colonel Charles Broadwater settled within the town boundaries. Broadwater's son-in-law, John Hunter built the first recorded house there in 1767, naming it Ayr Hill (recalling his birthplace, Ayr, Scotland.) That name was subsequently applied to the tiny, developing community. The name of the town was changed in the 1850s, when a doctor named William Hendrick settled there on the condition that the town would rename itself after his hometown, Phelps, New York, then known as Vienna.
Enroll in the Best Paralegal Program near Vienna VA
Selecting the ideal paralegal degree program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Vienna residence. Paralegal academic programs are provided in various formats and lengths. Several kinds of public and private 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 school will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you choose to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to assess each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the right training you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Vienna VA.
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