How to Select the Right Legal Assistant Certificate Program near Savage Montana
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Savage MT and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you find the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students start by looking for schools within commuting range of their Savage homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program must be taken into account as well. Later on in this article we will review a list of questions that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your selection. But before we do, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold the same job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Savage MT attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their daily activities might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really 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 number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career as a paralegal in Savage MT is by obtaining a certificate, which may require just six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more expansive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. When you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Montana to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected 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 address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Points to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can start the process of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Savage MT area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other important aspects to consider also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a reputable 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 help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Savage MT law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Savage MT law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also offer an avenue for students to start developing contacts within the Savage MT legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Montana legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Because laws differ from state to state, it might be a good idea to select a legal assistant school located in Montana or the state where you wish to work after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the community where you choose to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to initially look at those colleges that are within the Savage MT area.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be available to help offset part of the expense, so be sure to check with the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Savage MT. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, some of these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Savage MT, 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 choose offers that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making up missed classes because of work, illness or family obligations.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Schools
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more common and can be an excellent option for students looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to those who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online programs can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in greater 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 considering are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the right choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Savage MT?
If you live near Savage Montana or perhaps are considering attending classes in that area, following is some interesting and useful information regarding the location of your new school campus.
Paralegal Schools Online Savage MT
Enrolling in the best paralegal degree school is an essential 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 Paralegal Schools Online. But as we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Savage residence. Paralegal training programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Several kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you choose to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to assess each program and make your final selection. And with the ideal education you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Savage MT.
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