How to Pick a Paralegal Certificate Program near Wakefield Virginia
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Wakefield VA and start your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic choices are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students begin by searching for paralegal schools within commuting range of their Wakefield residences. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you need to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be taken into consideration also. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional 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 responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help lawyers in Wakefield VA with a diverse array of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their regular activities may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a Wakefield VA 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 duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to manage a much larger volume 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. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career in Wakefield VA as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which may take as little as six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. After you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might want to continue and earn a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Virginia to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. 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 program (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Wakefield VA.
Paralegal Online Training
Paralegal online schools have become more popular and may be an excellent option for those in Wakefield VA searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to individuals who keep working while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online classes can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and conventional environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the ideal option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing Wakefield VA area schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree 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 discussed, there are other significant issues to think about also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select should be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Wakefield VA law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are often accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the Wakefield VA paralegal schools you are considering. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also offer a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Wakefield VA legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job placement 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 Virginia legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws vary from state to state, it may be a good idea to select a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you wish to work after graduation. Also, it will be important to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to initially consider those schools that are within your Wakefield VA local region.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. 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 reduce part of the cost, so don’t forget to contact the school’s financial aid office to find out what is available in Wakefield VA. Of course if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these added costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Wakefield VA, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you enroll in offers that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making up classes missed due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Wakefield VA?
Wakefield is widely known for the Virginia Diner, the Airfield Conference and 4-H Educational Center and the National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office for Eastern Virginia, which issues weather alerts for the region.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 1.3 square miles (3.3 km2), of which, 1.2 square miles (3.2 km2) of it is land and 0.04 square miles (0.1 km2) of it (3.10%) is water.
Wakefield, one of several stops along the Norfolk and Petersburg Railroad in pre-civil war Virginia, is thought to have been named by William Mahone(1826-1895), then president of the N&P, and his wife Otelia Butler Mahone as they traveled the newly completed railroad in 1858. According to local lore, the name came from the Sir Walter Scott novel Ivanhoe, which Mrs. Mahone was reading at the time. The towns of Windsor and Waverly are said to have received their names the same way.
As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 927 people residing in the city. The racial makeup of the town was 50.6% Black, 46.1% White, 0.3% Native American, 1.5% Asian and 0.6% from two or more races. 0.9% were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
Select the Right Paralegal Program near Wakefield VA
Choosing the right paralegal training program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Wakefield residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in many formats and lengths. Various kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you choose to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to examine each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal education you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Wakefield VA.
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