How to Choose a Paralegal Studies Program near Wharton Texas
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Wharton TX and start your journey that will result in a fulfilling career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you locate the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students begin by trying to find paralegal schools within driving distance of their Wharton residences. Of those options, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program must be considered too. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your selection. But first, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic choices 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 the same job positions and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist lawyers in Wharton TX with a diverse array of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is normally billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their everyday tasks can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a Wharton TX paralegal can be complicated and quite challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career in Wharton TX as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which can require just six months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. After you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Texas to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help substantiate 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Wharton TX.
Online Paralegal Programs
Online paralegal programs have become more prevalent and can be an excellent option for students in Wharton TX searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to those who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training 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 highly regarded organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the right option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can start the process of evaluating Wharton TX area schools. But because there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other critical factors 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 need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Wharton TX law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically available only for accredited programs.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the Wharton TX paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no prior 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 provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Wharton TX legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Texas legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Because laws differ from state to state, it may be beneficial to select a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you plan to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to cultivate 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 area where you choose to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to first look at those schools that are within your Wharton TX local area.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don’t forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be accessible to help offset part of the expense, so be sure to contact the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Wharton TX. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, some of these added costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Wharton TX, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you select offers that option. Finally, find out what the process is for making up classes missed because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Wharton TX?
Wharton County, Texas
Wharton County (/ˈhwɔːrtən/ WHAWR-tən) is a county located in the U.S. state of Texas. As of the 2010 census, its population was 41,280. Its county seat is Wharton. The county was named for brothers William Harris Wharton and John Austin Wharton.
As of the census of 2000, there were 41,188 people, 14,799 households, and 10,744 families residing in the county. The population density was 38 people per square mile (15/km²). There were 16,606 housing units at an average density of 15 per square mile (6/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 69.01% White, 14.95% Black or African American, 0.37% Native American, 0.31% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 13.65% from other races, and 1.64% from two or more races. 31.29% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 12.8% were of Czech, 11.0% German and 7.0% American ancestry according to Census 2000. 73.8% spoke English, 24.0% Spanish and 2.0% Czech as their first language.
There were 14,799 households out of which 35.70% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 55.50% were married couples living together, 12.50% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.40% were non-families. 24.40% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.40% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.73 and the average family size was 3.26.
In the county, the population was spread out with 28.70% under the age of 18, 9.30% from 18 to 24, 26.50% from 25 to 44, 21.50% from 45 to 64, and 13.90% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females there were 96.90 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.70 males.
Choose the Best Paralegal School near Wharton TX
Selecting the best paralegal educational program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Wharton residence. Paralegal academic programs are offered in various lengths and formats. Different kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you choose to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to evaluate each school and make your final decision. And with the right training you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Wharton TX.
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