How to Select a Paralegal College near Altamont Illinois
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Altamont IL and start your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. However, it’s important that you locate the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational options are being offered, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students start by looking for paralegal schools within driving range of their Altamont residences. Of those options, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program should be considered also. Later on in this post we will cover a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your choice. But first, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold comparable job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help attorneys in Altamont IL with a wide variety of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their day-to-day tasks may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a Altamont IL paralegal can be involved and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is give 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 really are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to start your career in Altamont IL as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve just six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. Once you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Illinois to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Altamont IL.
Paralegal Online Certificates
Online paralegal programs have become more popular and may be a good alternative for those in Altamont IL looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to those who keep working while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a respected agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the ideal choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can start the process of assessing Altamont IL area schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most prospective 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 crucial factors to consider also, such as 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 and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Altamont IL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the Altamont IL paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, 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 some law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while still in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Altamont IL legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Illinois legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Because laws differ from one state to another, it may be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school located in the state where you wish to practice after graduating. Also, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the community where you want to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to initially look at those colleges that are within your Altamont IL local region.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be accessible to help reduce part of the cost, so be sure to talk to the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Altamont IL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online program, some of these additional costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while getting their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Altamont IL, 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 select offers that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Altamont IL?
Legend says Griffin Tipsword came to live with the Kickapoo Indians, who were indifferent to the coming of a white man. Tipsword was white by birth and Indian by adoption. He was a pioneer, a missionary preacher, hunter and medicine man among the Indians. Tipsword's family name was Sowards. He called himself Tipsword after coming to Illinois. Tipsword was a veteran of the Revolutionary War, first fighting at Ramsour's Mill in the Carolinas. Griffin died in 1845 and was buried on the banks of Wolff Creek (Tipsword family cemetery, Effingham), leaving three sons, John, Isaac, and Thomas, who left many descendants in the area.
Altamont, the "City of Plain", was laid out in Mound Township, considered the richest and best township in Effingham County - being mostly prairies and farm ground - slightly rolling along Big Creek, Coon Creek, and Second Creek. Mound Township was settled early by German immigrants from the Rhine by way of Pennsylvania and Ohio.
The name "Altamont", like "Mound Township", was bestowed by J.W. Conlogue because of the elevation or "mound" to the northwest. The first part of the word means altitude, the second mount or mound. Conlogue was a romantic, naming his town from Latin.
In History of Effingham County, editor William Henry Perrin wrote in 1883: "The name of Mound Township was bestowed upon it in consequence of what is known as the neighborhood of Blue Mound, a slight elevation of Section 8, which is nearly all a kind of mound, the apex being in the center of the section, and having an altitude of seventy-eight feet above the bed of the Vandalia Railroad, which passes near it. Recently, the Government has erected a signal observatory upon it, some seventy-five to one hundred feet in height, from the top of which one may look across the States of Missouri and Arkansas and see the cowboys watching their herds on the prairies of Texas."
Find the Best Paralegal Degree Program near Altamont IL
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal degree program is a vital first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Altamont home. Paralegal education programs are provided in numerous formats and lengths. Several kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you choose to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to review each program and make your final selection. And with the ideal education you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Altamont IL.
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