How to Enroll in the Right Legal Assistant Program near Watertown South Dakota
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Watertown SD and start your journey that will result in a satisfying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students start by searching for schools within driving range of their Watertown homes. Of those choices, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you ought to take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be taken into account too. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your selection. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both fill comparable job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Watertown SD lawyers with a wide range of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their everyday activities can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Watertown SD is by obtaining a certificate, which can take just six months to complete. Many 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 two years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. When you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might choose to continue and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in South Dakota to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Things to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Watertown SD area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant factors to research as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program 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 might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Watertown SD law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call a few Watertown SD law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the Watertown SD legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with South Dakota legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ from state to state, it might be a good idea to select a paralegal school located in South Dakota or the state where you plan to work after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to first consider those schools that are within the Watertown SD area.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential received and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be accessible to help offset part of the expense, so don’t forget to consult with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Watertown SD. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, some of these additional costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Watertown SD, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in provides that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Schools
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more available and may be a good alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to individuals who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a respected organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Watertown SD?
If you live near Watertown South Dakota or perhaps are considering attending classes in that area, following is some interesting and useful information regarding the location of your new school campus.
Watertown, South Dakota
Watertown is a city in and the county seat of Codington County, South Dakota, United States. The population was 21,482 at the 2010 census. It is the fifth largest city in South Dakota. It is also the principal city of the Watertown Micropolitan Statistical Area, which includes all of Codington and Hamlin counties.
Watertown is home to the Redlin Art Center which houses many of the original art works produced by Terry Redlin, one of America's most popular wildlife artists. Watertown also is home to the Bramble Park Zoo and the Watertown Regional Library. The Watertown Public Opinion is a six-day daily newspaper published in Watertown.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 25.04 square miles (64.85 km2), of which, 17.45 square miles (45.20 km2) is land and 7.59 square miles (19.66 km2) is water. Watertown sits on the Big Sioux River and two major lakes, Pelican Lake and Lake Kampeska. Most of Watertown also sits upon a short plateau. Elevation at Watertown Regional Airport is 1,745 feet.
How To Become A Legal Assistant Watertown SD
Choosing the ideal paralegal studies degree school is an essential first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about How To Become A Legal Assistant. But as we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Watertown home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Several kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, 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 prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you choose 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 ultimate decision. And with the ideal education you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Watertown SD.
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