How to Choose the Right Paralegal Degree Program near Waterloo Illinois
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Waterloo IL and begin your journey that will lead to a fulfilling career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you locate the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students start by trying to find schools within driving distance of their Waterloo homes. Of those choices, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be taken into consideration too. Later on in this post we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill comparable job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Waterloo IL attorneys with a wide range of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their everyday tasks may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be involved and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized 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 suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
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 prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Waterloo IL is by earning a certificate, which may require as little as 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and can be earned at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Illinois to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help establish 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 paralegal certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Points to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Waterloo IL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant factors to research as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Waterloo IL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs 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. Confirming that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Waterloo IL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start creating contacts within the Waterloo IL legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduation, 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. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Illinois legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary among states, it might be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Illinois or the state where you want to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be important to establish relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Waterloo IL area.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential received and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to include 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 be sure to consult with the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Waterloo IL. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while getting their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Waterloo IL, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making-up missed classes due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Degrees
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more popular and may be an excellent alternative for those looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to individuals who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a reputable agency, for instance 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 choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Waterloo IL?
If you live near Waterloo Illinois or perhaps are considering attending classes in that area, following is some interesting and useful information regarding the location of your new school campus.
According to the 2010 census, Waterloo has a total area of 7.66 square miles (19.84 km2), of which 7.52 square miles (19.48 km2) (or 98.17%) is land and 0.14 square miles (0.36 km2) (or 1.83%) is water.Illinois Route 3 and Illinois Route 156 intersect within its bounds, and it is along the historic trail from Kaskaskia to St. Louis.
Waterloo's history dates back to the 18th century, with the French being the first Europeans to settle in the area. The site was ideal because of its elevation; the proximity of the Mississippi River Valley brought frequent flooding to the lowlands. It was also close to Fort de Chartres, a French stronghold. They named their settlement Bellefontaine, meaning 'beautiful spring.' This name related to a spring of water a mile south of the site of Waterloo, a frequent campsite on journeys between Kaskaskia, Cahokia, and St. Louis. France had long since abandoned the area, as it had been ceded to Britain in the wake of the Seven Years' War in 1763 and had since been unoccupied.
The first documented English-speakers came, in the spring of 1782, when James Moore, Larken Rutherford, and James Garretson, of Maryland and Virginia, settled at or near Bellefontaine. Upon their arrival, they were the first permanent English-speakers, in the entire Northwest Territory. James Moore and many of the settlers that followed him had been soldiers in George Rogers Clark's Illinois campaign of 1778. Moore established himself at the site of the namesake spring, and the tract remained in possession of the Moore family for over a century. The kitchen of the Bellefontaine House, situated a short distance west of the southern end of Main Street, is believed to be Moore's original log cabin. It was restored and remains as a local landmark.
Masters Degree In Legal Studies Waterloo IL
Choosing the best paralegal degree program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about Masters Degree In Legal Studies. But as we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Waterloo home. Paralegal training programs are made available in various lengths and formats. Various types of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, 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. Given that 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 no matter how you decide to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to review each school and make your final selection. And with the ideal training you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Waterloo IL.
Other Illinois Locations That May Be Of Interest
Business Results 1 - 10 of 55