How to Select a Paralegal College near Westminster Colorado
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Westminster CO and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational choices are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students start by looking for paralegal schools within traveling distance of their Westminster homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program must be taken into account too. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your selection. But first, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic 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 roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, 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 assist attorneys in Westminster CO with a wide variety of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but some of their regular tasks can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a Westminster CO paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. 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 they are not confined to clerical or administrative functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to start your career in Westminster CO as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which may involve as little as 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Colorado to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your career opportunities, but help establish 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 advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Westminster CO.
Online Paralegal Degrees
Online paralegal programs have become more prevalent and can be an excellent option for individuals in Westminster CO looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a respected organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating Westminster CO area schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other critical aspects to think about also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select should be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Westminster CO law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the Westminster CO paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program 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 confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Westminster CO legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Colorado legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary from one state to another, it may be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school located in the state where you want to practice after graduation. Also, it will be important to create relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the community where you choose 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 might wish to first investigate those colleges that are within your Westminster CO local area.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don’t forget 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 expense, so make sure to consult with the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Westminster CO. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these additional expenses, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Westminster CO, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you choose provides that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making up classes missed due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Westminster CO?
Westminster is a Home Rule Municipality in Adams and Jefferson counties in the U.S. state of Colorado. Westminster is a northwest suburb of Denver. The Westminster Municipal Center is located 9 miles (14 km) north-northwest of the Colorado State Capitol. The United States Census Bureau estimates that the city population was 106,114 on April 1, 2010 Census. Westminster is the seventh most populous city in the state of Colorado and the 237th most populous city in the United States. Westminster is a part of the Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO Metropolitan Statistical Area and the Denver-Aurora-Boulder Combined Statistical Area. In July 2006, it was ranked as the 24th best place to live in the USA by Money magazine.
Gold discovered in the South Platte River Valley in 1858 brought national attention to the area that would become Westminster, Colorado. The promise of fortune and the Land Act of 1862 encouraged many settlers from the east to make Colorado their home instead of heading on to California. Before the settlements came, wildlife like antelope and buffalo made their homes in this area. There is also evidence of Arapaho Indians near the Crown Point (Gregory Hill) area.
After the first permanent white settler, Pleasant DeSpain, built his home in 1870 on 160 acres (near what is now West 76th Avenue and Lowell Street), the area became known as DeSpain Junction and began attracting other settlers including horse breeder Edward Bruce Bowles who was instrumental in constructing the town's train depot in 1881. In 1885, Connecticut real estate developer C. J. Harris arrived in DeSpain Junction and began buying up land. Soon the town was renamed Harris, but was also known as Darell Park.
In 1891, construction began on the Westminster Castle, which can still be seen as of today at West 83rd Avenue and Federal Boulevard. By 1911, the town had incorporated and was renamed one final time to Westminster, in honor of Westminster University.
Select the Right Paralegal School near Westminster CO
Choosing the best paralegal degree 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 choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Westminster home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Various types of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you choose to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to evaluate each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate training you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Westminster CO.
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