How to Choose the Right Paralegal Degree Program near Wellfleet Massachusetts
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Wellfleet MA and begin your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. However, it’s important that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational options are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students begin by trying to find schools within traveling range of their Wellfleet residences. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program should be taken into consideration also. Later on in this article we will review a list of questions that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your selection. But before we do, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both fill the same job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, 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 Wellfleet MA lawyers with a wide range of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties 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 delivering files to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is normally billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their everyday tasks can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical 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, lawyers are able to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Wellfleet MA is by earning a certificate, which may take just six months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Massachusetts to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Things to Ask Paralegal Schools
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Wellfleet MA area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. 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 previously discussed, there are other important aspects to research also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few 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 choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Wellfleet MA law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some Wellfleet MA law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also provide a means for students to start creating contacts within the Wellfleet MA legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Massachusetts legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary among states, it may be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Massachusetts or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to create relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the area where you wish to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Wellfleet MA region.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be available to help offset part of the cost, so be sure to consult with the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Wellfleet MA. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Wellfleet MA, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you select provides that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making up classes missed because of work, illness or family obligations.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Schools
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more common and can be an excellent option for those searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to those who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address 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 sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the right choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Wellfleet MA?
If you live near Wellfleet Massachusetts or perhaps are considering attending classes in that area, following is some interesting and useful information regarding the location of your new school campus.
Wellfleet is a town in Barnstable County, Massachusetts, United States, and is located halfway between the "tip" and "elbow" of Cape Cod. The town had a population of 2,750 at the 2010 census, which swells nearly sixfold during the summer. A total of 70% of the town's land area is under protection, and nearly half of it is part of the Cape Cod National Seashore. Wellfleet is famous for its oysters, which are celebrated in the annual October Wellfleet OysterFest.
Originally settled in the 1650s by the Europeans as Billingsgate (after the famous fish market in East London), Wellfleet was part of neighboring Eastham until 1763, when it achieved town status after nearly 30 years of petitioning.
Wellfleet's oyster beds drove the early economy, as did whaling and fishing. The town was home to 30 whaling ships at the time of the American Revolution. However, because of the decline of whaling and the mackerel catch in the late 19th century, the fleet declined, being completely free of schooners by 1900. The oyster fleet continues to this day, however, harvesting many other types of shellfish as well.
Paralegal Degree Requirements Wellfleet MA
Enrolling in the ideal legal assistant certificate school is an essential 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 Paralegal Degree Requirements. But as we have discussed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Wellfleet residence. Paralegal academic programs are provided in various lengths and formats. Several kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you elect to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to assess each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the right education you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Wellfleet MA.
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