How to Select a Paralegal School near Walla Walla Washington
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Walla Walla WA and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. However, it’s essential that you locate the best school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic choices are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students begin by looking for schools within traveling range of their Walla Walla homes. Of those options, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school need to be taken into consideration too. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your decision. But first, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both fill comparable job roles and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Walla Walla WA lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but some of their regular activities can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- 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 additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative functions more suited 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 ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training 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 academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Walla Walla WA is by obtaining a certificate, which may require just 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and may be earned at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might choose to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Washington to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some 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 advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Walla Walla WA area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of 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 significant aspects to think about as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency 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 certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Walla Walla WA law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. 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 a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Walla Walla WA law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also provide a means for students to start establishing contacts within the Walla Walla WA legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Washington legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it might be beneficial to select a paralegal school domiciled in Washington or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the area where you choose to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to first consider those colleges that are within the Walla Walla WA region.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help reduce some of the expense, so be sure to check with the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Walla Walla WA. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, some of these additional expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Walla Walla WA, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you select provides that option. Last, ask what the process is for making up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Training
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more prevalent and can be a good alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools 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 quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the right choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Walla Walla WA?
If you live near Walla Walla WA 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.
Walla Walla, Washington
The population of the city itself was 31,731 at the 2010 census. The population of Walla Walla and its two suburbs, the town of College Place and unincorporated "East Walla Walla," is about 45,000. Walla Walla is in the southeastern region of Washington, approximately four hours away by car from Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington, and only six miles north of the Oregon border.
Recorded history in this state begins with the establishment of Fort Nez Perce in 1818 by the North West Company to trade with the Walla Walla people and other local Native American groups. At the time, the term "Nez Perce" was used more broadly than today, and included the Walla Walla in its scope in English usage. Fort Nez Perce had its name shift to Fort Walla Walla. It was located significantly west of the present city.
On September 1, 1836, Marcus Whitman arrived with his wife Narcissa Whitman. Here they established the Whitman Mission in an unsuccessful attempt to convert the local Walla Walla tribe to Christianity. Following a disease epidemic, both were killed by the Cayuse who believed that the missionaries were poisoning the native peoples. Whitman College was established in their honor.
Find the Right Paralegal School near Walla Walla WA
Enrolling in the best paralegal degree program is a crucial first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Walla Walla residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in many formats and lengths. Several kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you elect to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to examine each school and make your final decision. And with the appropriate training you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Walla Walla WA.
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