How to Select a Paralegal College near Aledo Illinois
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Aledo IL and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you find the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic choices are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students begin by trying to find paralegal schools within driving distance of their Aledo residences. Of those options, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be considered too. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can evaluate 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 available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold the same job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist lawyers in Aledo IL with a diverse array of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with trial logistics or transporting 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 carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their regular activities may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a Aledo IL paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative tasks more apropos 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 have the ability to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
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. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career in Aledo IL as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve as little as six months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Illinois to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected certifying organizations 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Aledo IL.
Paralegal Online Training
Online paralegal schools have become more common and can be an excellent option for those in Aledo IL searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to those who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online programs can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the right choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can begin the process of evaluating Aledo IL area schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial factors to think about as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Aledo IL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the Aledo IL paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even if 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 office or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also present a pathway for students to start creating contacts within the Aledo IL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Illinois legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws differ from state to state, it may be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school located in the state where you wish to practice after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the area where you desire to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially investigate those colleges that are within your Aledo IL local area.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential obtained 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 might be available to help reduce some of the cost, so make sure to contact the school’s financial aid office to find out what is available in Aledo IL. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, some of these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Aledo IL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in offers that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making up missed classes because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Aledo IL?
Aledo /ʌˈliːdoʊ/ (u-LEE-doh) is a city in Mercer County, Illinois, United States. The population was 3,640 at the 2010 census, up from 3,613 in 2000. It is the county seat of Mercer County.
According to the 2010 census, Aledo has a total area of 2.392 square miles (6.20 km2), of which 2.38 square miles (6.16 km2) (or 99.5%) is land and 0.012 square miles (0.03 km2) (or 0.5%) is water.
As of the census of 2010, there were 3,640 people, 1,568 households, and 947 families residing in the city. The racial makeup of the city was 98.5% (3,586) white; 0.6% (22) African American; 0.0% (1) Native American; 0.3% (12) Asian; 0.1% (4) from other races; and 0.4% (15) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.2% (45) of the population.
There were 1,568 households out of which 24.5% had children under the age of 18 living in them, 49.0% were married couples living together, 3.6% had a male householder with no wife present, 7.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.6% were non-families. 35.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 20.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.20 and the average family size was 2.84.
Enroll in the Right Paralegal Program near Aledo IL
Selecting the right paralegal educational program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Aledo home. Paralegal training programs are made available in many lengths and formats. Several kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you choose to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to examine each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the right training you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Aledo IL.
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