How to Pick a Paralegal Training Program near Vienna Virginia
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Vienna VA and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you locate the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic options are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students begin by trying to find paralegal schools within commuting range of their Vienna residences. Of those choices, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school should be considered too. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill the same job positions and functions, 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 classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist attorneys in Vienna VA with a wide variety of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but some of their routine tasks can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a Vienna VA paralegal can be complex and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career in Vienna VA as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which may involve just 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Virginia to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few of the highly regarded 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 crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Vienna VA.
Paralegal Online Schools
Online paralegal schools have become more prevalent and can be a good alternative for students in Vienna VA searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to individuals who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online schools can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online 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 sure that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable agency, such as 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 right option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing Vienna VA area schools. But since there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of 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 crucial factors to think about also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Vienna VA law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the Vienna VA paralegal schools you are considering. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no previous work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call a few law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Vienna VA legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing 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 Virginia legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws differ from one state to another, it may be beneficial to choose a paralegal school located in the state where you wish to work after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to build relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to initially investigate those colleges that are within your Vienna VA local region.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help minimize part of the expense, so don’t forget to consult with the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Vienna VA. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these added costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes 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 Vienna VA, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making-up classes missed because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Vienna VA?
Vienna (/viˈɛnə/) is a town in Fairfax County, Virginia, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, it had a population of 15,687. Significantly more people live in ZIP codes with the Vienna postal addresses (22180, 22181, and 22182) bordered approximately by Interstate 66 on the south, Interstate 495 on the east, Route 7 to the north, and Hunter Mill road to the west.
In August 2013, CNNMoney and Money magazine ranked Vienna, VA third on its list of the 100 best places to live in the United States. In addition to highly ranked public schools, its assets include a downtown with many small businesses, a Washington Metro station with large parking garages (the western terminus of the Orange Line) just south of the town, and a portion of the Washington & Old Dominion Railroad Regional Park hiker/biker trail cutting through the center of the town. Tysons Corner, a residential, commercial and shopping district, is nearby, as is Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts.
Non-native settlement in the region dates to ca. 1740. In 1754, prominent soldier and land owner Colonel Charles Broadwater settled within the town boundaries. Broadwater's son-in-law, John Hunter built the first recorded house there in 1767, naming it Ayr Hill (recalling his birthplace, Ayr, Scotland.) That name was subsequently applied to the tiny, developing community. The name of the town was changed in the 1850s, when a doctor named William Hendrick settled there on the condition that the town would rename itself after his hometown, Phelps, New York, then known as Vienna.
On June 17, 1861 a relatively minor but widely noted military engagement occurred there, the Battle of Vienna, one of the earliest armed clashes of the Civil War. A would-be Union occupation unit under Brig. Gen. Robert C. Schenck approached Vienna from the east by train but was ambushed and forced to retreat by a superior Confederate force led by Colonel Maxcy Gregg. Today, several historical markers in Vienna detail its Civil War history.
Choose the Right Paralegal Degree Program near Vienna VA
Choosing the best paralegal degree program is a crucial first step toward 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 Vienna residence. Paralegal training programs are offered in numerous formats and lengths. Several types of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you decide to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to assess each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Vienna VA.
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