How to Choose a Paralegal Program near Westwood New Jersey
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Westwood NJ and begin your journey that will result in a fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you locate the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is among 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 alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students start by trying to find paralegal schools within traveling distance of their Westwood residences. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school must be considered also. Later in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your decision. But first, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational 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 basically both hold comparable job roles and responsibilities, 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 classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help attorneys in Westwood NJ with a wide range of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but some of their regular tasks can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a Westwood NJ paralegal can be involved and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical tasks more applicable 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, attorneys are able to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
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. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to start your career in Westwood NJ as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which can require as little as 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. After you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in New Jersey to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Westwood NJ.
Online Paralegal Classes
Online paralegal programs have become more popular and can be a good alternative for those in Westwood NJ searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to students who keep working while earning a degree. As an added advantage, online classes can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the ideal option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing Westwood NJ area schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important issues to consider as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a highly regarded 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 get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Westwood NJ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the Westwood NJ paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Westwood NJ legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with New Jersey legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Because laws vary from state to state, it may be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you wish to work after graduating. Also, it will be important to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially investigate those colleges that are within your Westwood NJ local area.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be available to help reduce part of the cost, so be sure to talk to the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Westwood NJ. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while getting their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Westwood NJ, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you select provides that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making-up missed classes due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Westwood NJ?
Westwood, New Jersey
Westwood (known as "The Hub of the Pascack Valley") is a borough in Bergen County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the borough's population was 10,908, reflecting a decline of 91 (-0.8%) from the 10,999 counted in the 2000 Census, which had in turn increased by 553 (+5.3%) from the 10,446 counted in the 1990 Census. Westwood is part of the New York metropolitan area. Many of its residents regularly commute to New York City for work and leisure, many using public transportation.
Westwood was officially incorporated as a borough on May 8, 1894, from portions of Washington Township, early during the "Boroughitis" phenomenon then sweeping through Bergen County, in which 26 boroughs were formed in the county in 1894 alone. Isaac D. Bogert served as the first mayor of the Borough. In April 1909, Westwood was enlarged through the annexation of the "Old Hook" section of the borough of Emerson, and on September 24, 1957, portions of the borough were exchanged with Emerson.
The Lenni-Lenape Native Americans inhabited this part of the state and shared it with the transient hunters and trappers until the permanent settlers began to enter in mid-18th century. In the early 19th century, the area that would later become Westwood was within the larger political boundaries of Harrington Township, which had been established by royal charter in 1775. In 1840, the western half of Harrington Township became Washington Township, with the Hackensack River as the dividing line. Washington Township was an agrarian region with isolated farmsteads. Early families, including the Hoppers and Ackermans, are buried at the Old Hook Cemetery. An 18th-century mill was situated at the dammed stream near the intersection of today's Mill Street and First Avenue. This mill was on an important east west pathway and was the first on Musquapsink Brook. The mill was largely destroyed after a fire set by an arsonist and was dismantled in 1910.
The first wave of concentrated development took place as the result of the coming of the Hackensack and New York Railroad in 1870, which followed the route of today's Pascack Valley Line. On March 5, 1870, service began between Westwood and New York City (via Jersey City and a ferry ride). Several small hotels were built near the depot, and in 1872 several houses in the latest European-influenced styles began to be built along Centre Avenue. Old maps show that growth occurred simultaneously on the land both to the east and west of the tracks. The commercial buildings included lumber and coal sheds, stores, and a bakery. There was a chapel on the corner of Third and Park Avenues. The triangular park that has played an important role as a place of community gatherings is also shown on the 1876 map.
Choose the Ideal Paralegal Degree Program near Westwood NJ
Enrolling in the best paralegal training program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Westwood home. Paralegal education programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Different kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you decide to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to review each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Westwood NJ.
Other Cool Cities in New Jersey
Business Results 1 - 10 of 705