How to Choose a Paralegal School near Yakima Washington
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Yakima WA and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying profession in legal services. However, it’s essential that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational choices are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students begin by trying to find paralegal schools within commuting distance of their Yakima residences. Of those options, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program must be taken into consideration also. Later in this article we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your selection. But first, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold comparable job positions and functions, only 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 category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help lawyers in Yakima WA with a diverse array of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private practices, 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 comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their regular tasks may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a Yakima WA paralegal can be complex and very demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical tasks more apropos 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 preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically 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 way to launch your career in Yakima WA as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which may take as little as 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. After you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may want to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Washington to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some 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 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 first steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Yakima WA.
Paralegal Online Classes
Online paralegal schools have become more popular and can be an excellent alternative for students in Yakima WA searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online classes can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the right choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Schools
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating Yakima WA area schools. But since there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to evaluate 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 covered, there are other important issues to research also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Yakima WA law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the Yakima WA paralegal programs you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while still in school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Yakima WA legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Washington legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws differ from one state to another, it might be a good idea to choose a paralegal school located in the state where you plan to practice after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the area where you choose to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to first investigate those colleges that are within your Yakima WA local region.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be accessible to help reduce some of the expense, so don’t forget to check with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Yakima WA. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Yakima WA, make certain 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 offers that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making up missed classes because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Yakima WA?
Yakima (/ˈjækɪmɑː/ or /ˈjækɪmə/) is a U.S. city located about 60 miles (100 kilometers) southeast of Mount Rainier in Washington. Yakima is the county seat of Yakima County, Washington, and the state's eleventh largest city by population. As of the 2010 census, the city had a total population of 91,067 and a metropolitan population of 243,231. The unincorporated suburban areas of West Valley and Terrace Heights are considered a part of greater Yakima.
Yakima is situated in the Yakima Valley, an extremely productive agricultural region noted for apple, wine and hop production. As of 2011, the Yakima Valley produces 77% of all hops grown in the United States. The name Yakima originates from the Yakama Nation, located south of the city.
The Yakama people were the first known inhabitants of the Yakima Valley. In 1805, the Lewis and Clark Expedition came to the area and discovered abundant wildlife and rich soil, prompting the settlement of homesteaders. A Catholic Mission was established in Ahtanum, southwest of present-day Yakima, in 1847. The arrival of settlers and their conflicts with the natives resulted in the Yakima War. The U.S. Army established Fort Simcoe in 1856 near present-day White Swan as a response to the uprising. The Yakamas were defeated and forced to relocate to the Yakama Indian Reservation.
Yakima County was created in 1865. When bypassed by the Northern Pacific Railroad in December 1884, over 100 buildings were moved with rollers and horse teams to the nearby site of the depot. The new city was dubbed North Yakima and was officially incorporated and named the county seat on January 27, 1886. The name was changed to Yakima in 1918. Union Gap was the new name given to the original site of Yakima.
Enroll in the Ideal Paralegal Degree Program near Yakima WA
Selecting the best paralegal training program is an essential first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Yakima residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in many formats and lengths. Several types of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you elect to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to evaluate each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate education you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Yakima WA.
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