How to Find a Paralegal Program near Takoma Park Maryland
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Takoma Park MD and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students begin by looking for paralegal schools within driving range of their Takoma Park residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program should be taken into consideration too. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold the same job positions and functions, just with different titles. However, 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 lawyers in Takoma Park MD with a wide range of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their everyday tasks can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a Takoma Park MD paralegal can be involved and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career in Takoma Park MD as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which can take as little as six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Maryland to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few of the highly regarded certifying organizations 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Takoma Park MD.
Paralegal Online Certificates
Paralegal online programs have become more popular and may be an excellent alternative for those in Takoma Park MD looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to students who keep working while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online programs can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the right choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing Takoma Park MD area schools. But because there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant aspects to consider also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a respected accrediting agency 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 distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Takoma Park MD law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically available only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the Takoma Park MD paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no previous experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, 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 a few law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also present an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Takoma Park MD legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Maryland legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it might be a good idea to select a paralegal school located in the state where you want to work after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to create relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to first investigate those schools that are within your Takoma Park MD local area.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost based on the credential received 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 books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might 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 offered in Takoma Park MD. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, some of these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Takoma Park MD, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you choose provides that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making up classes missed because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Takoma Park MD?
Takoma Park, Maryland
Takoma Park is a city in Montgomery County, Maryland. It is a suburb of Washington, D.C., and part of the Washington metropolitan area. Founded in 1883 and incorporated in 1890, Takoma Park, informally called "Azalea City", is a Tree City USA and a nuclear-free zone. A planned commuter suburb, it is situated along the Metropolitan Branch of the historic Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, just northeast of Washington, D.C., and it shares a border and history with the adjacent neighborhood of Takoma, Washington, D.C. It is governed by an elected mayor and six elected councilmembers, who form the city council, and an appointed city manager, under a council-manager style of government. The city's population was 16,715 at the 2010 national census.
Since 2013, residents of Takoma Park can vote in municipal elections when they turn sixteen. It was the first city in the United States to extend voting rights to 16- and 17-year-olds in city elections. Since then, the City of Hyattsville has done the same.
Takoma Park was founded by Benjamin Franklin Gilbert in 1883. It was one of the first planned Victorian commuter suburbs,  centered on the B&O railroad station in Takoma, D.C., and bore aspects of a spa and trolley park.
Takoma was originally the name of Mount Rainier, from Lushootseed [təqʷúbəʔ] (earlier *təqʷúməʔ), 'snow-covered mountain'. In response to a wish of Gilbert, the name Takoma was chosen in 1883 by DC resident Ida Summy, who believed it to mean 'high up' or 'near heaven'. The city of Tacoma in Washington State is also named after Mount Takhoma (Mount Rainier).
Find the Best Paralegal Degree Program near Takoma Park MD
Enrolling in the right paralegal educational program is an important first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Takoma Park residence. Paralegal training programs are made available in various lengths and formats. Various types of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you choose to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to review each school and make your final decision. And with the ideal training you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Takoma Park MD.
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