How to Choose a Paralegal Degree Program near Antioch Illinois
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Antioch IL and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you find the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational options are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students begin by searching for paralegal schools within driving range of their Antioch homes. Of those options, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you need to take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program ought to be taken into consideration as well. Later on in this article we will cover a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your decision. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic options that are available 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 comparable job positions and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help lawyers in Antioch IL with a wide variety of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their daily tasks can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a Antioch IL paralegal can be complex and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career in Antioch IL as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which may require just 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and may be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. Once you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Illinois to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected 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 address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Antioch IL.
Online Paralegal Degrees
Online paralegal schools have become more prevalent and may be a good alternative for those in Antioch IL looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online classes can sometimes be less costly 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 schools are accredited, which we will address in greater 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 program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the right option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing Antioch IL area schools. But considering that there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant factors to research also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Antioch IL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the Antioch IL paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while still in school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the Antioch IL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Illinois legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Because laws vary among states, it might be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school located in the state where you wish to work after graduating. Also, it will be important to build relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to first investigate those schools that are within your Antioch IL local area.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be available to help offset some of the cost, so make sure to consult with the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Antioch IL. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, some of these added expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Antioch IL, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you select makes available that option. Last, find out what the procedure is for making-up classes missed due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Antioch IL?
The Pottawatomi Indian Tribe, semi-nomadic hunters who lived in wigwams, inhabited Antioch when white men began to arrive. They fought with the British in the War of 1812 and then with the American settlers in the Blackhawk War of 1832. It was in 1832 that the American Indians began to leave the area, although arrowheads and other remnants of their history can still be found today if one knows where to look. The winding Highway 173 was once an Indian trail and Highway 83 was the Muquonago Trail.
The first permanent white settlement in Antioch was the Gage Brothers' cabin on Sequoit Creek, a tributary of the Fox River. In 1839, Hiram Buttrick built a sawmill along the creek, making Antioch a center of commerce. A replica of the mill has been built a few hundred feet downstream from where it once stood.
The influence of the Gage brothers is important when trying to understand the history and names of the Antioch area, as many local businesses, as well as ACHS sports teams, bear the word "Sequoit." There is no Native American tribe named "Sequoit" or any Native American word for that matter stemming from Antioch's Pottawatomi inhabitants. Though the word "sequoit" has Native American origins, the story behind the name is as complicated as it is historically interesting. Fred Willman explains in his in-depth book examining Illinois high school nicknames, "Why Mascots Have Tales", "The word Sequoit is a form of spelling of the Iroquois Indian word Sa-da-quoit, which was the name the Iroquois Indians gave to a stream that flows through Oneida County in New York state. In the Iroquois language, Sa-da-quoit literally means ‘smooth pebbles in the bed of a stream.’ When white settlers moved into Oneida County, they modified the spelling and pronunciation of the stream to Sequoit Creek." This was later transplanted and modified when the Gage brothers moved from New York State to northern Illinois.
Antioch was officially founded just prior to the Civil War by a congregation of the Disciples of Christ, also known as the Church of Christ. In 1843, less enthusiastically religious residents mockingly recommended the Christian name "Antioch" (the name of a city in present-day Turkey that was a chief center of early Christianity), and the name stuck. Partly due to being a regional center of the abolitionist movement, Antioch is noted as having sent a disproportionately high number of its young men to the Union Army. Shortly after the Civil War, the town disincorporated, as many of the initial religious settlers moved away.
Select the Best Paralegal Certificate Program near Antioch IL
Choosing the right paralegal training program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Antioch home. Paralegal academic programs are provided in various lengths and formats. Various types of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection 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, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you decide to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to examine each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the right education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Antioch IL.
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