How to Find a Paralegal Degree Program near Oakland Rhode Island
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Oakland RI and start your journey that will lead to a fulfilling career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students start by trying to find paralegal schools within traveling range of their Oakland homes. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be taken into consideration as well. Later in this article we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational 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 for the most part both fill comparable job positions and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help lawyers in Oakland RI with a wide range of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their routine tasks can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a Oakland RI paralegal can be complicated and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. 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 attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career in Oakland RI as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which may involve as little as 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may want to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Rhode Island to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected certifying agencies 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Oakland RI.
Online Paralegal Schools
Online paralegal programs have become more prevalent and can be an excellent alternative for individuals in Oakland RI searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to individuals who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a respected organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the ideal option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can start the process of evaluating Oakland RI area schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other crucial aspects to consider also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a highly regarded organization 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 standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Oakland RI law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the Oakland RI paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while still in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to start creating contacts within the Oakland RI legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Rhode Island legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it may be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school located in the state where you plan to work after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially investigate those schools that are within your Oakland RI local area.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be accessible to help reduce part of the cost, so don’t forget to check with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Oakland RI. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these added expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Oakland RI, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select offers that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Oakland RI?
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Find the Right Paralegal Training near Oakland RI
Selecting the ideal paralegal educational program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Oakland residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in various formats and lengths. Several types of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you decide to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to review each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the right education you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Oakland RI.
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