How to Choose a Paralegal Certificate Program near Suitland Maryland
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Suitland MD and begin your journey that will result in a satisfying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you locate the right school so that you will receive the extensive 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 a growing number of educational alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students start by looking for paralegal schools within commuting range of their Suitland residences. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school must be taken into account as well. Later on in this post we will review a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold comparable job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help lawyers in Suitland MD with a diverse array of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with trial logistics or transporting 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 perform with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but some of their everyday activities might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a Suitland MD paralegal can be involved and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical tasks 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 preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career in Suitland MD as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which can take just 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and earn a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Maryland to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost 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 discuss the advantages 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 Suitland MD.
Paralegal Online Classes
Paralegal online schools have become more common and may be a good option for students in Suitland MD searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to those who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online schools can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the right option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can start the process of assessing Suitland MD area schools. But because there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other important aspects to consider also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose should be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Suitland MD law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually available only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the Suitland MD paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education 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 suggest. Remember that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Suitland MD legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Maryland legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws differ from state to state, it may be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school located in the state where you wish to work after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the area where you wish to work. 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 may want to first look at those colleges that are within your Suitland MD local region.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential received and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don’t forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be available to help minimize part of the expense, so don’t forget to check with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Suitland MD. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Suitland MD, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you choose offers that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making-up missed classes due to work, illness or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Suitland MD?
Suitland is an unincorporated community and census designated place (CDP) in Prince George's County, Maryland, about 1 mile (1.6 km) southeast of Washington, D.C. As of the 2010 census, the population of the CDP was 25,825. Prior to 2010, Suitland was part of the Suitland-Silver Hill census-designated place.
In the 1600s, the Piscataway tribe inhabited the lands in southern Maryland. European settlers first visited Saint Clement's Island on the Potomac River and then established their first Maryland colony downriver at Saint Mary's City in 1634, and by the 1660s through the 1680s, settlers had moved into what is now known as Prince George's County. Faced with this encroachment, the Piscataways left the area in 1697, and moved north to what is now known as Conoy Island. They eventually moved further north into Pennsylvania and Michigan. The sole export of the European settlers was tobacco, and slaves were first brought to the county in the 1700s.
Prior to the American Civil War, tobacco production had made Prince George's County one of the wealthiest counties in Maryland, and half of the county's population was enslaved. After the war, old plantations were broken up and replaced by communities centered on small farming and country villages.
In 1867, Samuel Taylor Suit moved to Maryland and purchased more than 800 acres (320 ha) near Washington, D.C. In the 1870s and 1880s, such prominent guests as U.S. Presidents Ulysses S. Grant and Rutherford B. Hayes visited the Suitland estate. It was the 1871 site of negotiations preliminary to the international tribunal in Geneva that arbitrated the Alabama Claims. After Suit's death in 1888, portions of the estate were sold (circa 1892 to 1903) to William A. Harrison, and the land was subsequently subdivided and sold over the years. Suit's son, Arthur B. Suit, retained 3 acres (1.2 ha) of land near the corner of Suitland and Silver Hill Roads, where he maintained a general store, a bar, a bowling alley, and the community's one-room jailhouse.
Find the Best Paralegal College near Suitland MD
Choosing the right paralegal degree program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed 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 Suitland home. Paralegal training programs are provided in numerous lengths and formats. Different types of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But no matter how you elect to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your final selection. And with the ideal education you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Suitland MD.
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