How to Pick a Paralegal Certificate Program near Washington Maine
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Washington ME and start 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 receive the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students start by trying to find paralegal schools within traveling range of their Washington residences. Of those options, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be considered also. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you ought to ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your selection. But first, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational 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. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help lawyers in Washington ME with a wide variety of job duties, 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. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their routine activities might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a Washington ME paralegal can be complex and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to start your career in Washington ME as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which may require just six months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. Once you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Maine to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your job opportunities, but help establish 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Washington ME.
Paralegal Online Degrees
Online paralegal schools have become more common and can be a good alternative for individuals in Washington ME searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to individuals who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online programs can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a respected agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the ideal option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing Washington ME area schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant aspects to research 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 programs you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick need to be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Washington ME law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the Washington ME paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while attending school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the Washington ME legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Maine legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws differ from one state to another, it may be advantageous to select a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you plan to practice after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to first look at those schools that are within your Washington ME local area.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential earned and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be accessible to help offset part of the expense, so make sure to consult with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is available in Washington ME. Of course if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Washington ME, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in provides that option. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Washington ME?
My Senator and Me
My Senator and Me: A Dog's-Eye View of Washington, D.C. is a 2006 children's book by Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy. It follows a Portuguese Water Dog named Splash as he tries to help his master, the senator, go about his daily life and pass an education bill. It also explains how a bill becomes a law, the roles of Congress and the Senate and other details of the U.S. system of government, plus biographies of Splash and Kennedy.
In real life, Splash is the name of Kennedy's dog, and the senator is really Kennedy himself. The money earned from the book will be donated to charities, including Read Boston, an organization that supports literacy in Boston public schools.
Choose the Right Paralegal College near Washington ME
Choosing the best paralegal degree program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Washington home. Paralegal education programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Different types of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you choose to obtain your education 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 right education you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Washington ME.
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