How to Choose a Paralegal College near West Yarmouth Massachusetts
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near West Yarmouth MA and start your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. However, it’s essential that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic alternatives are being offered, both at school 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 driving range of their West Yarmouth residences. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program ought to be taken into account as well. Later on in this post we will cover a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let’s take a look at 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 functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist lawyers in West Yarmouth MA with a wide range of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their routine tasks may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a West Yarmouth MA paralegal can be involved and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to start your career in West Yarmouth MA as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which can involve as little as six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Massachusetts to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in West Yarmouth MA.
Online Paralegal Degrees
Paralegal online schools have become more common and may be an excellent alternative for students in West Yarmouth MA looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online classes can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a reputable agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating West Yarmouth MA area schools. But since there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important aspects to research as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also get 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 future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous West Yarmouth MA law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often available only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the West Yarmouth MA paralegal programs you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the West Yarmouth MA legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without support. Ask 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 substantial networks and great relationships with Massachusetts legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ from one state to another, it may be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you plan to work after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to build relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially investigate those schools that are within your West Yarmouth MA local region.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be obtainable to help minimize some of the expense, so be sure to consult with the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in West Yarmouth MA. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online program, some of these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near West Yarmouth MA, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you choose makes available that option. Last, find out what the process is for making up classes missed due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in West Yarmouth MA?
West Yarmouth, Massachusetts
West Yarmouth is located in the southwest quarter of the town of Yarmouth at 41°38′58″N 70°14′47″W / 41.64944°N 70.24639°W / 41.64944; -70.24639 (41.649547, -70.246385). It is bordered to the east by South Yarmouth, to the west by Hyannis in the town of Barnstable, and to the south by Nantucket Sound. To the north is U.S. Route 6, the Mid-Cape Highway, beyond which is the CDP of Yarmouth Port.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the West Yarmouth CDP has a total area of 9.1 square miles (23.6 km2). 6.7 square miles (17.3 km2) of it is land, and 2.4 square miles (6.3 km2) of it (26.54%) is water.
As of the census of 2000, there were 6,460 people, 2,911 households, and 1,679 families residing in the CDP. The population density was 371.7/km² (963.3/mi²). There were 4,929 housing units at an average density of 283.6/km² (735.0/mi²). The racial makeup of the CDP was 93.10% White, 2.03% African American, 0.48% Native American, 0.53% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 1.47% from other races, and 2.38% from two or more races. 1.67% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 2,911 households out of which 20.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 42.6% were married couples living together, 11.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 42.3% were non-families. 34.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 16.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.14 and the average family size was 2.73.
Choose the Best Paralegal School near West Yarmouth MA
Choosing the best paralegal degree program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your West Yarmouth residence. Paralegal training programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Several types of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you elect to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to examine each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the right training you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in West Yarmouth MA.
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