How to Find a Paralegal College near Watertown South Dakota
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Watertown SD and start your journey that will result in a satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you find the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students begin by looking for paralegal schools within driving distance of their Watertown homes. Of those choices, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be taken into account also. Later in this post we will cover a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your decision. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional choices 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 hold comparable job positions and responsibilities, only 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 category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist lawyers in Watertown SD with a wide variety of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist 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 lawyer’s. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their daily activities can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys 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 Watertown SD 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 action. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to start your career in Watertown SD as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which may require as little as 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. After you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in South Dakota to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected certifying organizations 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 discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Watertown SD.
Paralegal Online Schools
Online paralegal programs have become more common and may be a good alternative for students in Watertown SD looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a respected organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the ideal option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can start the process of assessing Watertown SD area schools. But because there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other crucial issues to consider as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Watertown SD law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the Watertown SD paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no previous experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also present a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Watertown SD legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with South Dakota legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it may be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you wish to practice after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the community where you wish to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to initially investigate those schools that are within your Watertown SD local region.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential received 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 as well. Financial assistance might be accessible to help minimize part of the cost, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid office to find out what is available in Watertown SD. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Watertown SD, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you select offers 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 Watertown SD?
Watertown, South Dakota
Watertown is a city in and the county seat of Codington County, South Dakota, United States. The population was 21,482 at the 2010 census. It is the fifth largest city in South Dakota. It is also the principal city of the Watertown Micropolitan Statistical Area, which includes all of Codington and Hamlin counties.
Watertown is home to the Redlin Art Center which houses many of the original art works produced by Terry Redlin, one of America's most popular wildlife artists. Watertown also is home to the Bramble Park Zoo and the Watertown Regional Library. The Watertown Public Opinion is a six-day daily newspaper published in Watertown.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 25.04 square miles (64.85 km2), of which, 17.45 square miles (45.20 km2) is land and 7.59 square miles (19.66 km2) is water. Watertown sits on the Big Sioux River and two major lakes, Lake Pelican and Lake Kampeska. Most of Watertown also sits upon a short plateau. Elevation at Watertown Regional Airport is 1,745 feet.
Watertown was founded in 1879 as a rail terminus when the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad reactivated part of a line it had constructed to Lake Kampeska. Despite the prominence of rivers and lakes in the area, the city was named after Watertown, New York, the hometown of brothers John E. Kemp and Oscar P. Kemp, two of the city's founders. The town's name was originally planned to be named Kampeska.
Select the Ideal Paralegal School near Watertown SD
Selecting the ideal paralegal degree program is a crucial 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 Watertown home. Paralegal education programs are offered in many formats and lengths. Several kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you elect to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to assess each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate training you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Watertown SD.
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