How to Select a Paralegal College near Smith Center Kansas
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Smith Center KS and begin your journey that will lead to a fulfilling career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you find the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students start by trying to find paralegal schools within traveling distance of their Smith Center homes. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you need to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program should be considered as well. Later on in this post we will review a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your selection. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill comparable job positions and responsibilities, 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 lawyers in Smith Center KS with a wide range of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, 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 practice could help with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their day-to-day activities might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a Smith Center KS paralegal can be complicated and very demanding. 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 main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career in Smith Center KS as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which may take just six months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Kansas to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Smith Center KS.
Paralegal Online Programs
Online paralegal programs have become more popular and may be a good alternative for individuals in Smith Center KS looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to individuals who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online schools can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater 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 considering are accredited by a reputable agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal environment, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the ideal choice for you.
Things 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 undertaking of assessing Smith Center KS area schools. But since there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant issues to think about also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online training. 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. Numerous Smith Center KS law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the Smith Center KS paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the Smith Center KS legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Kansas legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Since laws differ from state to state, it may be advantageous to select a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you want to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be important to build relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the area where you desire to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to initially consider those colleges that are within your Smith Center KS local region.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential obtained 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 books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be accessible to help offset some of the cost, so be sure to talk to the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Smith Center KS. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, some of these added expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Smith Center KS, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you enroll in offers that option. Last, inquire what the process is for making up missed classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Smith Center KS?
Smith Center, Kansas
Smith Center was founded in 1871. The first post office in Smith Center was established in January 1873. Like Smith County, Smith Center was named for Maj. J. Nelson Smith of the 2nd Colorado Cavalry, a pre-war native of Elwood, Kansas, who died leading his regiment on October 21, 1864 at the Battle of the Little Blue River. 
Smith Center is located at 39°46′43″N 98°47′7″W / 39.77861°N 98.78528°W / 39.77861; -98.78528 (39.778550, -98.785141). According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 1.24 square miles (3.21 km2), all land.
As of the census of 2010, there were 1,665 people, 779 households, and 470 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,342.7 inhabitants per square mile (518.4/km2). There were 928 housing units at an average density of 748.4 per square mile (289.0/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 97.7% White, 0.1% African American, 0.4% Native American, 0.1% Asian, 0.2% Pacific Islander, 0.4% from other races, and 1.1% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.0% of the population.
There were 779 households of which 23.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 49.8% were married couples living together, 7.1% had a female householder with no husband present, 3.5% had a male householder with no wife present, and 39.7% were non-families. 36.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 21.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.10 and the average family size was 2.71.
Find the Ideal Paralegal College near Smith Center KS
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal training program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Smith Center home. Paralegal education programs are offered in various formats and lengths. Various types of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you choose to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to review each program and make your final selection. And with the appropriate training you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Smith Center KS.
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