How to Select a Paralegal Training Program near Washington Virginia
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Washington VA and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you find the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive 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 a growing number of academic options are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students begin by searching for paralegal schools within driving distance of their Washington homes. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be considered as well. Later on in this article we will cover a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your decision. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational 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 essentially both fill the same job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, 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 assist lawyers in Washington VA with a diverse array of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. 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 might help with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their everyday tasks may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a Washington VA paralegal can be complex and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to start your career in Washington VA as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which can require as little as six months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. After you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Virginia to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your career opportunities, but help substantiate 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 address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Washington VA.
Paralegal Online Degrees
Online paralegal programs have become more popular and may be an excellent alternative for those in Washington VA searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to students who keep working while earning a degree. As an added advantage, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the right option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can begin the process of assessing Washington VA area schools. But considering that there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of potential 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 factors to consider as well, including 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 properly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a respected 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 focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Washington VA law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the Washington VA paralegal programs you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Washington VA legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are evaluating provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Virginia legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it may be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school located in the state where you wish to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the community where you choose to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to first look at those schools that are within your Washington VA local area.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be accessible to help offset some of the cost, so make sure to consult with the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Washington VA. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Washington VA, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you choose provides that option. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making up missed classes because of work, illness or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Washington VA?
Washington is a town in and the county seat of Rappahannock County, Virginia, United States. The site of this town was surveyed by George Washington himself in July 1749. It was the first of what would be many American places to be named after the future first president. Its population was just 135 people at the 2010 census, down from 183 in the 2000 census. It is nicknamed Little Washington to avoid confusion because of its proximity to Washington, D.C., which lies only 70 miles (110 km) to the north east.
The Town of Washington was formerly the location of a trading post utilized by frontier families and members of the resident Manahoac tribe. All of the territory in and around the current town was under the ownership of Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron. In 1748, Lord Fairfax met a 16-year-old George Washington, a distant relative of his. Being impressed by his character, Fairfax employed Washington to survey his lands west of the Blue Ridge Mountains. On July 24, 1749, the town layout as it appears today was surveyed and platted by Washington with the assistance of his chainmen John Lonem and Edward Corder as part of his service to Fairfax. The village was officially established as a Town by the Virginia General Assembly on December 14, 1795 when it gained the requisite population of 200. Records from an 1835 gazetteer state that the town contained one academy, fifty-five dwellings, four mercantile stores, two taverns, one house of worship, twenty-seven trade shops, and two large flour mills.
During the Civil War, a home on the town's Main Street served as a Confederate Hospital. In the late 19th century when rail became the main method of trade, the main east-west railway route of the time was constructed north of town through the accessible Thoroughfare Gap. Washington was relatively unaffected by the Industrial Age and thus the current town is quite similar to the one of 150 years ago. By the start of the 20th century the population reached three hundred, supporting businesses such as three garages and a barber shop. However, since then, the population had declined to less than 200.
Today, the town is probably most known for The Inn at Little Washington, a five-star restaurant, inn, and member of the Relais & Châteaux group. As such it attracts a discerning clientele from Washington, D.C. and its suburbs. Largely due to its influence, the town is also now home to several art galleries, unique shops, bed and breakfasts and restaurants. Dining aside, the town also attracts many art lovers, because of its numerous galleries, history buffs, and hikers that come into the county from the east en route for day hikes or weekend camping trips.
Select the Ideal Paralegal College near Washington VA
Selecting the ideal paralegal educational program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Washington residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in various formats and lengths. Several kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you choose to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to assess each school and make your final decision. And with the ideal education you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Washington VA.
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