How to Choose a Paralegal Training Program near Wise Virginia
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Wise VA and begin your journey that will result in a fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you find the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational options are becoming available, both at school and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students begin by looking for schools within traveling range of their Wise residences. Of those options, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school need to be taken into consideration as well. Later on in this post we will cover a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill 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 classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Wise VA attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an 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, a paralegal’s work is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their everyday tasks can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and very demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Wise VA is by earning a certificate, which may involve just 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to proceed and get a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Virginia to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected 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 cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Things to Ask Paralegal Schools
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Wise VA area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important aspects to research as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency 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 online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Wise VA law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Wise VA law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also offer a means for students to start creating contacts within the Wise VA legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Virginia legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws differ from one state to another, it might be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Virginia or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the area where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to first investigate those schools that are within the Wise VA area.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, 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 also. Financial aid may be obtainable to help reduce some of the expense, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Wise VA. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, some of these added costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Wise VA, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you choose offers that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making-up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Programs
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more popular and may be an excellent option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into 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 setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Wise VA?
If you live near Wise 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.
Wise is a town in Wise County, Virginia, United States. The population was 3,286 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Wise County. It was originally incorporated as the town of Gladeville in 1874. The town's name was changed to Wise in 1924. Wise is named after Henry A. Wise, the last Virginia governor before the American Civil War and the first governor to hail from the Eastern Shore of Virginia.
As of the census of 2000, there were 3,255 people, 1,424 households, and 868 families residing in the town. The population density was 1,059.4 people per square mile (409.4/km²). There were 1,594 housing units at an average density of 518.8 per square mile (200.5/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 95.24% White, 1.94% African American, 0.28% Native American, 1.14% Asian, 0.77% from other races, and 0.65% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.41% of the population.
There were 1,424 households out of which 26.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.0% were married couples living together, 10.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.0% were non-families. 34.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.17 and the average family size was 2.79.
Enroll in the Right Paralegal Program near Wise VA
Choosing the right paralegal educational program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding 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 privacy and comfort of your Wise home. Paralegal training programs are provided in many lengths and formats. Several types of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you choose to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to examine each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate education you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Wise VA.
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