How to Choose a Paralegal Degree Program near Virden Illinois
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Virden IL and begin your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you find the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic options are being offered, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students begin by looking for paralegal schools within commuting distance of their Virden residences. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school should be taken into account also. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold comparable job positions and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help lawyers in Virden IL with a wide range of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves 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 day-to-day activities can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a Virden IL paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical duties more apropos 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 ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially 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 in Virden IL as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which may require as little as 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. After you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to continue and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Illinois to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Virden IL.
Online Paralegal Programs
Online paralegal programs have become more prevalent and can be a good option for those in Virden IL looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to individuals who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online classes can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum 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 thinking about are accredited by a respected organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the right option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing Virden IL area schools. But because there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other significant issues to consider also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose should be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify 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 as well. A number of Virden IL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the Virden IL paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, 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 call some law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Virden IL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Illinois legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it may be advantageous to select a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you wish to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be important to develop relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the community where you choose to practice. 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 might wish to first investigate those colleges that are within your Virden IL local region.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential earned and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be obtainable to help offset some of the expense, so be sure to consult with the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Virden IL. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these added expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Virden IL, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you enroll in makes available that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Virden IL?
The Macoupin County portion of Virden is part of the St. Louis, Missouri–Illinois Metropolitan Statistical Area, while the Sangamon County portion is part of the Springfield Metropolitan Statistical Area.
Virden is located at 39°30′N 89°46′W / 39.500°N 89.767°W / 39.500; -89.767 (39.504, -89.768). Most of the city lies in Macoupin County, with a small portion extending into Sangamon County. In the 2000 census, 3,378 of the city's 3,488 residents (96.8%) lived in Macoupin County and 110 (3.2%) lived in Sangamon County.
As of the census of 2000, there were 3,488 people, 1,455 households, and 934 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,032.6 people per square mile (783.0/km²). There were 1,609 housing units at an average density of 937.6 per square mile (361.2/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 98.80% White, 0.32% African American, 0.40% Native American, 0.09% Asian, 0.06% from other races, and 0.34% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.46% of the population.
There were 1,455 households out of which 29.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 49.8% were married couples living together, 10.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.8% were non-families. 31.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.32 and the average family size was 2.87.
Find the Ideal Paralegal School near Virden IL
Selecting the ideal paralegal educational program is an important first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered 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 Virden residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in numerous lengths and formats. Different kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you elect to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to review each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal training you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Virden IL.
Other Cool Cities in Illinois
Business Results 1 - 10 of 4