How to Find a Paralegal Certificate Program near Towson Maryland
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Towson MD and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding 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 be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic options are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students start by trying to find paralegal schools within traveling distance of their Towson residences. Of those choices, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school should be considered too. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your selection. But first, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives 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 comparable job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist lawyers in Towson MD with a wide range of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their routine activities might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a Towson MD paralegal can be complex and very demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps 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 Towson MD as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve as little as six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. After you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might want to continue and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Maryland to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Towson MD.
Paralegal Online Training
Online paralegal schools have become more popular and may be an excellent option for those in Towson MD searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to individuals who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the ideal choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can start the process of evaluating Towson MD area schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant issues to research also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a reputable 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 focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Towson MD law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the Towson MD paralegal programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the Towson MD legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Maryland legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws differ from state to state, it might be beneficial to select a paralegal school located in the state where you want to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the area where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to first consider those schools that are within your Towson MD local area.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don’t forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be accessible to help reduce some of the expense, so be sure to contact the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Towson MD. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these added costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Towson MD, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you choose offers that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making-up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Towson MD?
Towson (/ˈtaʊsən/) is an unincorporated community and a census-designated place in Baltimore County, Maryland. The population was 55,197 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat and the second-most populated unincorporated county seat in the United States (after Ellicott City, the seat in nearby Howard County, southwest of Baltimore).
The first inhabitants of the future Towson and central Baltimore County region were the Susquehannock people who hunted in the area. Their region included all of Baltimore County, though their primary settlement was farther northeast along the Susquehanna River.
Towson was settled in 1752 when Pennsylvania brothers, William and Thomas Towson, began farming an area of Sater's Hill, northeast of the present-day York and Joppa Roads. William's son, Ezekiel, opened the Towson Hotel to serve the increasing traffic of farmers bringing their produce and livestock to the port of Baltimore. He built the hotel at current-day Shealy Avenue and York Road, near the area's main crossroads. The village became known as "Towsontown". The property in West Towson came from two land grants: 400 acre Gott's Hope in 1719, and Gunner's Range in 1706.
In 1790, businessman Capt. Charles Ridgely completed the magnificent Hampton Mansion just north of Towsontown, the largest private house in America at the time. The Ridgelys lived there for six generations, until 1948. It is now preserved as the Hampton National Historic Site and open to the public.
Find the Right Paralegal College near Towson MD
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal training program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Towson home. Paralegal training programs are provided in various lengths and formats. Several kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you choose to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to examine each program and make your final decision. And with the appropriate training you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Towson MD.
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