How to Pick a Paralegal Program near Wilkes Barre Pennsylvania
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Wilkes Barre PA and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you locate the best school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic choices are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students begin by searching for paralegal schools within commuting range of their Wilkes Barre homes. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school should be taken into consideration too. Later in this post we will cover a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your choice. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic 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 essentially both fill 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 belong to a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help attorneys in Wilkes Barre PA with a diverse array of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but some of their everyday activities can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a Wilkes Barre PA paralegal can be involved and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical duties more suited 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 volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education 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 requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to start your career in Wilkes Barre PA as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve as little as 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. Once you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Pennsylvania to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly regarded 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Wilkes Barre PA.
Online Paralegal Degrees
Paralegal online programs have become more prevalent and may be an excellent alternative for those in Wilkes Barre PA searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to individuals who continue to work while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online schools can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a respected agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the right choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing Wilkes Barre PA area schools. But since there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to 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 most prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other critical factors to consider as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose should be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency 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 targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Wilkes Barre PA law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the Wilkes Barre PA paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to start developing contacts within the Wilkes Barre PA legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Pennsylvania legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Because laws differ from state to state, it might be a good idea to choose a paralegal school located in the state where you plan to work after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the area where you choose to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to first investigate those colleges that are within your Wilkes Barre PA local area.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help minimize some of the expense, so make sure to consult with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Wilkes Barre PA. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, some of these additional costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Wilkes Barre PA, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you choose provides that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making-up classes missed due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Wilkes Barre PA?
Wilkes-Barre (/ˈwɪlksˌbɛər/ or /-bɛəri/) is a city in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the county seat of Luzerne County. It is one of the principal cities in the Scranton–Wilkes-Barre–Hazleton, PA Metropolitan Statistical Area. Located at the center of the Wyoming Valley, it is second in size to the nearby city of Scranton. The Scranton–Wilkes-Barre–Hazleton, PA Metropolitan Statistical Area had a population of 563,631 as of the 2010 Census, making it the fourth-largest metro/statistical area in the state of Pennsylvania. Wilkes-Barre and the surrounding Wyoming Valley are framed by the Pocono Mountains to the east, the Endless Mountains to the west, and the Lehigh Valley to the south. The Susquehanna River flows through the center of the valley and defines the northwestern border of the city.
Wilkes-Barre was founded in 1769 and formally incorporated in 1806. The city grew rapidly in the 19th century after the discovery of nearby coal reserves and the arrival of hundreds of thousands of immigrants who provided a labor force for the local mines. The coal mining fueled industrialization in the city, which reached the height of its prosperity in the first half of the 20th century. Its population peaked at more than 86,000. Following World War II, the city's economy declined due to the collapse of industry. The Knox Mine disaster accelerated this trend after large portions of the area's coal mines were flooded and could not be reopened. Today the city has a population of 40,569, making it the largest city in Luzerne County and the 13th-largest city in Pennsylvania.
In the early 18th century, the Wyoming Valley was inhabited by the Shawanese and Delaware Indian (Lenape) tribes. By 1769, John Durkee led the first recorded Europeans to the area. They established a frontier settlement named Wilkes-Barre after John Wilkes and Isaac Barré, two British members of Parliament who supported colonial America.
The initial settlers were aligned with colonial Connecticut, which had a claim on the land that rivaled Pennsylvania's. Armed men loyal to Pennsylvania twice attempted to evict the residents of Wilkes-Barre in what came to be known as the Pennamite–Yankee Wars. After the American Revolution, in the 1780s, the conflict was eventually settled. The disputed land was granted to Pennsylvania. The location of modern-day Wilkes-Barre became part of Northumberland County. However, Connecticut settlers, who were still living in the area, wanted to create a new state in northeastern Pennsylvania. Timothy Pickering was sent to the region to politically examine the situation. This led to the Pennsylvania Assembly passing a resolution which created Luzerne County. This ended the idea of creating a new state. Luzerne County was created from part of Northumberland County on September 25, 1786. Wilkes-Barre became the seat of government for the new territory. Under Pickering’s leadership and direction, county elections were held, the courts were established, and a government was formed.
Select the Best Paralegal Training near Wilkes Barre PA
Selecting the right paralegal training program is a vital first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Wilkes Barre residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in numerous lengths and formats. Various kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you choose to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to assess each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal training you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Wilkes Barre PA.
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