How to Pick a Paralegal Certificate Program near Stevensville Montana
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Stevensville MT and begin your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you find the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students begin by searching for paralegal schools within commuting distance of their Stevensville homes. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be taken into account too. Later on in this article we will cover a list of questions that you ought to ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your selection. But first, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill the same job positions and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help lawyers in Stevensville MT with a wide variety of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their routine tasks can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a Stevensville MT paralegal can be involved and rather 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 restricted to administrative or clerical duties more apropos 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 manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
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 academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career in Stevensville MT as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which can take as little as six months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to continue and receive a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Montana to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected certifying agencies 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 school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Stevensville MT.
Paralegal Online Schools
Online paralegal programs have become more popular and may be an excellent alternative for individuals in Stevensville MT searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to individuals who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online programs can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such things 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 ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a respected agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the ideal choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating Stevensville MT area schools. But since there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. 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, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Stevensville MT law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are often available only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the Stevensville MT paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking 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 determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also offer a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Stevensville MT legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Montana legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Because laws vary from state to state, it may be advantageous to select a paralegal school located in the state where you want to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the community where you desire to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially consider those colleges that are within your Stevensville MT local region.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help minimize some of the cost, so don’t forget to contact the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Stevensville MT. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, some of these additional expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Stevensville MT, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you choose provides that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making up classes missed because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Stevensville MT?
Stevensville is officially recognized as the first permanent settlement in the state of Montana. Forty-eight years before Montana became the nation's 41st state, Stevensville was settled by Jesuit Missionaries at the request of the Bitter Root Salish Amerindians.
Through interactions with Iroquois working in the fur trade between 1812 and 1820, the Bitter Root Salish learned about Christianity and Jesuit missionaries (the Blackrobes as they were called) that worked with Native Americans teaching about agriculture, medicine, and religion. Interest in these "blackrobes" grew among the Salish and, in 1831, four young Salish men were dispatched to St. Louis, Missouri to request a priest to return with them to their homeland of present-day Stevensville. The four Salish men were directed to the home and office of William Clark (of Lewis and Clark fame) to make their request. At that time Clark was in charge of administering the territory they called home. Through the perils of their trip two of the Salish died at the home of General Clark. The remaining two Salish men secured a visit with St. Louis Bishop Joseph Rosati who assured them that missionaries would be sent to the Bitter Root Valley when funds and missionaries were available in the future.
Again in 1835 and 1837 the Bitter Root Salish dispatched men to St. Louis to request missionaries but to no avail. Finally in 1839 a group of Iroquois and Salish met Father Pierre-Jean DeSmet in Council Bluffs. The meeting resulted in Fr. DeSmet promising to fulfill their request for a missionary the following year.
DeSmet arrived in present-day Stevensville on September 24, 1841, and called the settlement St. Mary's. Construction of a chapel immediately began, followed by other permanent structures including log cabins and Montana's first pharmacy. Father Ravalli, Jesuit priest and doctor, was the builder.
Find the Ideal Paralegal Certificate Program near Stevensville MT
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal degree program is an essential first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Stevensville residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Various types of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you choose to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to assess each school and make your final decision. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Stevensville MT.
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