How to Pick a Paralegal Studies Program near Westwood Massachusetts
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Westwood MA and start your journey that will result in a satisfying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you locate the best school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic choices are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students begin by searching for paralegal schools within driving range of their Westwood residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program ought to be taken into consideration too. Later on in this article we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your selection. But first, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational 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 essentially both hold comparable 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 separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help lawyers in Westwood MA with a wide variety of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is usually billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day tasks can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a Westwood MA paralegal can be involved and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career in Westwood MA as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which may involve just 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. After you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might choose to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Massachusetts to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly regarded 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 discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Westwood MA.
Online Paralegal Training
Paralegal online schools have become more available and can be a good alternative for individuals in Westwood MA searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online schools can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional environment, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the right option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Schools
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing Westwood MA area schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to learn 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 the majority of potential students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other critical factors to research also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also obtain 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 get will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Westwood MA law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the Westwood MA paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no previous work history, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call a few law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while attending school. They can also provide a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Westwood MA legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Massachusetts legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws vary among states, it may be a good idea to select a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you want to practice after graduation. Also, it will be important to create relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to first consider those colleges that are within your Westwood MA local region.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential received and the length of training furnished. Having said that, 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 as well. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help reduce some of the cost, so be sure to contact the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Westwood MA. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Westwood MA, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Last, inquire what the protocol is for making-up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Westwood MA?
Westwood is a town in Norfolk County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 14,618 at the 2010 census. In July 2005, CNN/Money and Money magazine ranked Westwood 13th on its list of the 100 Best Places to Live in the United States. Boston Magazine included Gay Street in Westwood on its list of the Best Streets in the Boston area. It is the 9th wealthiest town in the state of Massachusetts.
Westwood was first settled in 1641 and was part of the town of Dedham, originally called 'West Dedham', until it was officially incorporated in 1897. It was the last town to split from the original town of Dedham.
In 1970, Westwood was home to The Westwood Study, an assessment which measured the amount of racism in the almost entirely white town. Conducted in the context of efforts at integrating housing, what the study revealed was how large proportions of the town had racist views while at the same time viewing themselves as not racist.
In July 2005, CNN/Money and Money magazine ranked Westwood 13th on its list of the 100 Best Places to Live in the United States. Boston Magazine listed Gay Street in Westwood on its list of the Best Streets in the Boston area.
Enroll in the Best Paralegal Training near Westwood MA
Selecting the right paralegal educational program is an important first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed 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 Westwood residence. Paralegal academic programs are made available in numerous lengths and formats. Several kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you elect to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to examine each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate training you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Westwood MA.
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