How to Choose the Right Legal Assistant School near Cumberland Rhode Island
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Cumberland RI and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students start by looking for schools within commuting distance of their Cumberland homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school must be considered as well. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold the same job positions and responsibilities, only 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 legal assistants and paralegals help Cumberland RI 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 functions are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is usually billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their routine tasks can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and quite challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Cumberland RI is by obtaining a certificate, which may require just 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. After you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Rhode Island to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can start the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Cumberland RI area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other critical issues to consider also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Cumberland RI law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are often offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no previous experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call a few Cumberland RI law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also provide a means for students to start establishing contacts within the Cumberland RI legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Rhode Island legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Because laws vary from state to state, it may be beneficial to choose a paralegal school located in Rhode Island or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the area where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to first consider those colleges that are within the Cumberland RI area.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don’t forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be accessible to help minimize some of the cost, so don’t forget to contact the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Cumberland RI. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while obtaining their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Cumberland RI, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you choose makes available that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making-up missed classes because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Training
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more available and may be a good option for those looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online classes can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain 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 dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the ideal option for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Cumberland RI?
If you live near Cumberland Rhode Island or perhaps are considering attending classes in that area, following is some interesting and useful information regarding the location of your new school campus.
Cumberland, Rhode Island
Cumberland was originally settled as part of Wrentham, Massachusetts, which was purchased from the local Indigenous Americans by the Plymouth Colony. It was later transferred to Rhode Island as part of a long-running boundary dispute. The town was named in honor of Prince William, Duke of Cumberland.
William Blackstone (also spelled William Blaxton in colonial times) was the first European to settle and live in Cumberland. (He was also the first European to have settled in Boston, but left when he and the newly arrived Puritans disagreed about religion.) He preached his brand of tolerant Christianity under an oak tree that became an inspiration to Christians worldwide. He lived on a farm in the Lonsdale area of Cumberland, where he cultivated the first variety of American apples, the Yellow Sweeting. The site of his home is now occupied by the Ann & Hope mill.
The popular tourist destination "Nine Men's Misery" is a tomb found on the grounds of a former Trappist monastery (Abbey of Our Lady of the Valley), part of which was destroyed in a fire in 1950. The Trappists sold the monastery and grounds to the town and part of the building was converted into the Edward J. Hayden Library, aka Cumberland Public Library in 1976. This combined three smaller libraries into one.
Paralegal Certificate Cumberland RI
Enrolling in the right paralegal certificate program is a vital 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 Certificate. But as we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Cumberland home. Paralegal academic programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Several types of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community and junior 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 prospects for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you decide to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to assess each school and make your final selection. And with the ideal training you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Cumberland RI.
Other Rhode Island Locations That May Be Of Interest
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