How to Choose a Paralegal Program near Whitehall Pennsylvania
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Whitehall PA and begin 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 receive the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students begin by trying to find paralegal schools within traveling range of their Whitehall residences. Of those options, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you need to take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school should be considered too. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your decision. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic 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 comparable job roles 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 classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist attorneys in Whitehall PA with a wide variety of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their daily activities may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a Whitehall PA paralegal can be complex and very demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career in Whitehall PA as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which may take just six months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. When you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Pennsylvania to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Whitehall PA.
Online Paralegal Schools
Online paralegal programs have become more available and can be a good alternative for students in Whitehall PA searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to individuals who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee 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 highly regarded agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the ideal choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing Whitehall PA area schools. But because there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other important issues to research also, including 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 programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Whitehall PA law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the Whitehall PA paralegal schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying 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 verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while still in school. They can also provide a means for students to begin creating contacts within the Whitehall PA 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 entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Pennsylvania legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it may be beneficial to select a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you want to work after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the area where you desire to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially investigate those schools that are within your Whitehall PA local region.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be available to help offset some of the expense, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Whitehall PA. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Whitehall PA, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you choose provides that option. Last, ask what the process is for making-up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Whitehall PA?
Choose the Right Paralegal College near Whitehall PA
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal training program is a vital first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Whitehall residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in numerous formats and lengths. Several types of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you elect to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to review each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate education you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Whitehall PA.
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