How to Choose a Paralegal Training Program near West Springfield Massachusetts
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near West Springfield MA and start your journey that will result in a fulfilling career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need 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 being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students start by trying to find paralegal schools within commuting distance of their West Springfield homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school need to be taken into account also. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your decision. But first, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational 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 fill the same job positions and functions, just 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 category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help lawyers in West Springfield MA with a wide variety of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but some of their everyday tasks might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a West Springfield MA paralegal can be involved and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to start your career in West Springfield MA as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which may require just six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Massachusetts to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your career 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 program (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in West Springfield MA.
Online Paralegal Certificates
Paralegal online schools have become more prevalent and may be an excellent option for students in West Springfield MA searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to those who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online schools can often be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum 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 respected agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the right option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating West Springfield MA area schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other important issues to research as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets 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 West Springfield MA law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the West Springfield MA paralegal programs you are considering. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school 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 verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the West Springfield MA legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Massachusetts legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary among states, it might be advantageous to choose a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you plan to practice after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you want to practice. 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 need to initially consider those colleges that are within your West Springfield MA local area.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help reduce part of the expense, so be sure to contact the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in West Springfield MA. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, some of these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near West Springfield MA, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you choose offers that option. Last, inquire what the protocol is for making up classes missed due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in West Springfield MA?
West Springfield, Massachusetts
West Springfield is a city in Hampden County, Massachusetts, United States. It is part of the Springfield, Massachusetts Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population was 28,391 at the 2010 census. The city is also known as "West Side", in reference to the fact that it is on the western side of the Connecticut River from Springfield, a fact which played a major part in the town's early history.
In paraphrase, from the official town history book... The area that became known as West Springfield was settled in 1635. The settlers fled to higher ground on the east side of the river and founded Springfield in the aftermath of the great hurricane of 1635. West Springfield was good farm land, so some families did stay on the west side.
Other than the trade in beaver skins, economic activity in early colonial Springfield consisted largely of subsistence farming and animal husbandry, with barter being the preferred medium of exchange for neighbors' crops, and locally produced goods. Gristmills and saw mills were also present in the early settlement.
Because the Connecticut River was too wide to be bridged at the time, crossings had to be made by boat. The Hay Place was created between the current town common and East School Street, for people who farmed or mowed on land grants on the west side to leave their crops while they awaited transport back to the eastern side.
Select the Right Paralegal Degree Program near West Springfield MA
Choosing the best paralegal educational program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your West Springfield residence. Paralegal academic programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Various kinds 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 program will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you elect to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to assess each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal education you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in West Springfield MA.
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