How to Pick a Paralegal College near North Smithfield Rhode Island
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near North Smithfield RI and start your journey that will lead to a rewarding profession in legal services. However, it’s important that you find the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need 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 educational options are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students begin by looking for paralegal schools within driving distance of their North Smithfield residences. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school should be taken into account as well. Later on in this article we will review a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your choice. But first, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic options 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 fill comparable 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 category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist attorneys in North Smithfield RI with a wide range of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. 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 trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their routine tasks may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- 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 maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a North Smithfield RI paralegal can be involved and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, 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 job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to start your career in North Smithfield RI as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which may require as little as 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. When you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Rhode Island to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help establish 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 cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in North Smithfield RI.
Paralegal Online Programs
Online paralegal programs have become more common and may be a good alternative for those in North Smithfield RI searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online schools 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 caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and conventional environment, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the ideal choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can start the process of evaluating North Smithfield RI area schools. But considering that there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant factors to research as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to 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 targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of North Smithfield RI law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often available only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the North Smithfield RI paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to start developing contacts within the North Smithfield RI legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Rhode Island legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Because laws vary from one state to another, it may be a good idea to choose a paralegal school located in the state where you wish to work after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to create relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you desire to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to initially look at those schools that are within your North Smithfield RI local area.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don’t forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be available to help reduce some of the expense, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in North Smithfield RI. Of course if you opt to attend an online program, some of these additional costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near North Smithfield RI, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you select offers that option. Last, find out what the process is for making up classes missed due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in North Smithfield RI?
North Smithfield, Rhode Island
North Smithfield is a town in Providence County, Rhode Island, United States, settled as a farming community in 1666 and incorporated into its present form in 1871. North Smithfield includes the historic villages of Forestdale, Primrose, Waterford, Branch Village, Union Village, Park Square, and Slatersville. The population was 12,314 at the 2015 census.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 24.7 square miles (64 km2), of which 24.0 square miles (62 km2) is land and 0.7 square miles (1.8 km2) (2.83%) is water. North Smithfield is in a New England upland region. The Branch River and Blackstone Rivers provided much of the power for the early mills in the town. The town consists mainly of temperate forests, with minor elevation changes. Residents can expect mild summers and harsh winters.
In the 17th century British colonists settled in North Smithfield developing a farming community that they named after Smithfield, London in England. The town was part of Smithfield, Rhode Island until it was incorporated as North Smithfield in 1871. The first colonization occurred after a Native American, "William Minnian, (or Quashawannamut) of Punkkupage" (present day Canton, MA) of Massachusetts Bay on May 14, 1666, deeded approximately 2,000 acres" to John Mowry and Edward Inman who partnered with Nathaniel Mowry, John Steere, and Thomas Walling in dividing up the purchased tract. In the early 18th century, a Quaker colony developed in what is now North Smithfield (then Smithfield), which extended into south Uxbridge, Massachusetts.
Today North Smithfield is part of the John H. Chaffee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor. The Blackstone Valley is the oldest industrialized region in the U.S. A local North Smithfield industry today, Berroco Yarns, is a continuation of an original family owned woolen company first established in this valley by Daniel Day in 1809.
Enroll in the Right Paralegal Program near North Smithfield RI
Choosing the right paralegal educational program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your North Smithfield residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Several kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including community and junior 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. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you decide to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the right education you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in North Smithfield RI.
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