How to Find the Right Paralegal Studies Training Program near Westbrook Maine
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Westbrook ME and start your journey that will result in a fulfilling profession in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students begin by searching for schools within driving range of their Westbrook homes. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program ought to be taken into account too. Later in this post we will cover a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your decision. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold the same job roles and functions, 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 separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Westbrook ME lawyers with a wide range of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with the logistics of a trial or transporting files 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 conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their routine activities might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching related cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and very demanding. On the other hand, 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. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Westbrook ME is by earning a certificate, which can require as little as six months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Maine to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your job opportunities, but help establish 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 paralegal degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Things to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Westbrook ME area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other important aspects to research also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a reputable 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 targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Westbrook ME law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Westbrook ME law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the Westbrook ME legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Maine legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws differ among states, it might be advantageous to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Maine or the state where you want to work after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to build relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the area where you desire to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to initially consider those schools that are within the Westbrook ME area.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost depending on the credential received and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don’t forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may 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 available in Westbrook ME. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, some of these additional costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while receiving their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Westbrook ME, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you enroll in makes available that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making-up missed classes due to work, illness or family obligations.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Training
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more available and may be an excellent alternative for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss 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 program and school you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the ideal choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Westbrook ME?
If you live near Westbrook Maine or perhaps are considering attending classes in that area, following is some interesting and useful information regarding the location of your new school campus.
Westbrook is a city in Cumberland County, Maine, United States and a suburb of Portland. The population was 17,494 at the 2010 census. It is part of the Portland–South Portland–Biddeford, Maine metropolitan statistical area.
Originally known as Saccarappa after Saccarappa Falls on the Presumpscot River, it was a part of Falmouth until February 14, 1814, when it was set off and incorporated as Stroudwater. It soon changed its name to Westbrook after Colonel Thomas Westbrook, a commander during Father Rale's War and King's mast agent who was an early settler and mill operator. In 1871, Saccarappa amicably split into two municipalities; the current Westbrook and Deering, which was then annexed by Portland in 1898. In 1891, Westbrook was incorporated as a city.
Saccarappa Falls and Congin Falls provided water power for early mills within the city. In 1829, a sawmill was built at the former which made the mill town noted for its lumber. Other industries followed, manufacturing grain bags, machinery and water wheels, carriage and harness, boots, shoes and moccasins, tinware, leather board, bricks, wooden boxes, box shook, meal and flour. The Portland Manufacturing Company built a cotton textile mill at Saccarappa Falls for making "sheetings, stripes and ducks." A paper mill was built at Cumberland Mills, once an Indian planting ground known as Ammoncongin. By 1859, it produced 1,000 tons of paper annually. In 1867, the factory's name would change to the S. D. Warren Paper Mill.
Degree In Paralegal Westbrook ME
Selecting the right paralegal studies degree school is an important first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about Degree In Paralegal. But as we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Westbrook residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in many formats and lengths. Different types of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you decide to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to evaluate each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Westbrook ME.
Other Maine Locations That May Be Of Interest
Business Results 1 - 10 of 6