How to Enroll in the Right Legal Assistant School near West Middlesex Pennsylvania
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near West Middlesex PA and begin your journey that will lead to a fulfilling career in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students start by looking for schools within driving distance of their West Middlesex homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. 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 must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill the same job positions and functions, only 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 category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help West Middlesex PA lawyers with a wide range of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their daily tasks may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys 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 quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably 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 launch your career as a legal assistant in West Middlesex PA is by earning a certificate, which may require as little as six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may want to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Pennsylvania to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Things to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the West Middlesex PA area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other crucial issues to research as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of West Middlesex PA law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually available only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, 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 West Middlesex PA law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the West Middlesex PA legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing 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 Pennsylvania legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws vary among states, it may be a good idea to select a legal assistant school located in Pennsylvania or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the area where you wish to practice. 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 might need to initially consider those schools that are within the West Middlesex PA area.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential earned and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be accessible to help minimize part of the expense, so be sure to consult with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in West Middlesex PA. Naturally if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near West Middlesex PA, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you choose makes available that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making-up classes missed due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Programs
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more common and may be a good option for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to individuals who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online schools can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a reputable organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the right option for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near West Middlesex PA?
If you live near West Middlesex Pennsylvania or perhaps are considering attending classes in that area, following is some interesting and useful information regarding the location of your new school campus.
West Middlesex, Pennsylvania
West Middlesex is a borough in Mercer County, Pennsylvania, along the Shenango River. The population was 863 at the 2010 Census. It is part of the Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, OH-PA Metropolitan Statistical Area.
West Middlesex is one of the oldest localities in Mercer County. Samuel Byers, Andrew Wylie, William Bell, Richard Vanfleet and several others arrived in the vicinity in the late 18th century. In 1787, James Gibson received a plot of land west of the Shenango River for military services. Shortly thereafter, ownership of that land passed to Jacob Edeburn. In 1818, Jacob's son William Edeburn built a log grist mill on part of the land. It was purchased by James McConnell in 1821, who built a log house nearby.
In 1830, Edeburn built a sawmill, and McConnell built a flour mill. James Gilkey, cultivator of the "Neshannock potatoes," surveyed the site and platted the town in 1836 on McConnell's land. A store and a tavern were opened about the time the town was platted, and in 1840 the post office was established, with Robert Young as the first postmaster.
Associates In Paralegal Studies Online West Middlesex PA
Enrolling in the ideal legal assistant degree 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 Associates In Paralegal Studies Online. But as we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your West Middlesex residence. Paralegal academic programs are offered in various formats and lengths. Various kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you choose to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to examine each program and make your final selection. And with the right education you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in West Middlesex PA.
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