How to Choose a Paralegal Degree Program near Sandpoint Idaho
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Sandpoint ID and begin your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you locate the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students begin by trying to find paralegal schools within commuting distance of their Sandpoint homes. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you ought to take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school must be taken into account also. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill the same job positions and functions, just 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 paralegals and legal assistants help lawyers in Sandpoint ID with a wide variety of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their daily tasks might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a Sandpoint ID paralegal can be complex and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals 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 attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career in Sandpoint ID as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which can take as little as 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. When you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Idaho to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Sandpoint ID.
Paralegal Online Training
Online paralegal programs have become more prevalent and may be an excellent option for students in Sandpoint ID searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to individuals who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online programs can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum 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 considering are accredited by a reputable agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the right option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing Sandpoint ID area schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add 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 driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important factors to think about also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Sandpoint ID law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often available only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the Sandpoint ID paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to start developing contacts within the Sandpoint ID legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Idaho legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Since laws differ from one state to another, it might be beneficial to select a paralegal school located in the state where you wish to work after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the area where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially investigate those schools that are within your Sandpoint ID local area.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be available to help offset some of the cost, so don’t forget to check with the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Sandpoint ID. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, some of these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Sandpoint ID, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you enroll in provides that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making up classes missed due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Sandpoint ID?
Sandpoint's major economic contributors include forest products, light manufacturing, tourism, recreation and government services. As the largest service center in the two northern Idaho counties (Bonner and Boundary), as well as northwestern Montana, it has an active retail sector. It was the headquarters of Coldwater Creek, a national women's apparel retailer; it is the headquarters of Litehouse Foods, a national salad dressing manufacturer; and Quest Aircraft, a maker of utility aircraft.
Sandpoint lies on the shores of Idaho's largest lake, 43-mile-long Lake Pend Oreille, and is surrounded by three major mountain ranges, the Selkirk, Cabinet and Bitterroot ranges. It is home to Schweitzer Mountain Resort, one of Idaho's largest ski resorts, and is on the International Selkirk Loop and two National Scenic Byways (Wild Horse Trail and Pend Oreille Scenic Byway). Among other distinctions awarded by national media in the past decade, in 2011 Sandpoint was named the nation's "Most Beautiful Small Town" by Rand McNally and USA Today.
The Salish Tribes, specifically the Kalispel and the Kootenai built encampments on the shore of Lake Pend Oreille every summer, fished, made baskets of cedar, and collected huckleberries before returning to either Montana or Washington in the fall. The encampments ended before 1930.
The region was extensively explored by David Thompson of the North West Company starting in 1807. Disputed joint British/American occupation of the Columbia District led to the Oregon boundary dispute. This controversy ended in 1846 with the signing of the Oregon Treaty, whereby Britain ceded all rights to land south of the 49th parallel.
Select the Ideal Paralegal Degree Program near Sandpoint ID
Selecting the best paralegal educational program is an important first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Sandpoint residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Different types of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including junior and 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 profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you decide to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to evaluate each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Sandpoint ID.
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