How to Select the Right Legal Assistant Degree Program near Westwood New Jersey
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Westwood NJ and begin your journey that will lead to a satisfying profession in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you find the best 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 a growing number of educational choices are being offered, both at school and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students begin by trying to find schools within commuting range of their Westwood homes. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you need to consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be taken into account as well. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your choice. But before we do, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold the same job roles and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Westwood NJ attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their routine activities may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly 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 Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Westwood NJ is by earning a certificate, which may involve as little as six months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in New Jersey to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected certifying agencies 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 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 initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
What to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Westwood NJ area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other critical factors to think about as well, 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 ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Westwood NJ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the School’s Reputation? 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 field with no previous experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Westwood NJ law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also present a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Westwood NJ legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal schools 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 sizable networks and good relationships with New Jersey legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws differ among states, it might be beneficial to select a paralegal school located in New Jersey or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. Also, it will be important to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the area where you want to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to first look at those schools that are within the Westwood NJ region.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential earned and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be available to help reduce part of the cost, so be sure to talk to the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Westwood NJ. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, some of these additional costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Westwood NJ, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you enroll in makes available that option. Last, find out what the process is for making-up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Training
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more available and may be a good option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain 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 setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the ideal choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Westwood NJ?
If you live near Westwood New Jersey or perhaps are considering attending classes in that area, following is some interesting and useful information regarding the location of your new school campus.
Westwood, New Jersey
Westwood (known as "The Hub of the Pascack Valley") is a borough in Bergen County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the borough's population was 10,908, reflecting a decline of 91 (-0.8%) from the 10,999 counted in the 2000 Census, which had in turn increased by 553 (+5.3%) from the 10,446 counted in the 1990 Census. Westwood is part of the New York metropolitan area. Many of its residents regularly commute to New York City for work and leisure, many using public transportation.
Westwood was officially incorporated as a borough on May 8, 1894, from portions of Washington Township, early during the "Boroughitis" phenomenon then sweeping through Bergen County, in which 26 boroughs were formed in the county in 1894 alone. Isaac D. Bogert served as the first mayor of the Borough. In April 1909, Westwood was enlarged through the annexation of the "Old Hook" section of the borough of Emerson, and on September 24, 1957, portions of the borough were exchanged with Emerson.
The Lenni-Lenape Native Americans inhabited this part of the state and shared it with the transient hunters and trappers until the permanent settlers began to enter in mid-18th century. In the early 19th century, the area that would later become Westwood was within the larger political boundaries of Harrington Township, which had been established by royal charter in 1775. In 1840, the western half of Harrington Township became Washington Township, with the Hackensack River as the dividing line. Washington Township was an agrarian region with isolated farmsteads. Early families, including the Hoppers and Ackermans, are buried at the Old Hook Cemetery. An 18th-century mill was situated at the dammed stream near the intersection of today's Mill Street and First Avenue. This mill was on an important east west pathway and was the first on Musquapsink Brook. The mill was largely destroyed after a fire set by an arsonist and was dismantled in 1910.
Legal Assistant Certificate Program Westwood NJ
Selecting the ideal paralegal studies training 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 Legal Assistant Certificate Program. But as we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Westwood home. Paralegal training programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Several kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you choose to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to review each school and make your final decision. And with the right training you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Westwood NJ.
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