How to Choose a Paralegal Program near Walsenburg Colorado
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Walsenburg CO and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you find the best school so that you will receive 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 educational options are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students begin by looking for paralegal schools within commuting range of their Walsenburg residences. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be considered also. Later on in this article we will review a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly 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 fill the same job positions and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, 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 Walsenburg CO with a wide variety of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. 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 firm could assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their daily tasks can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a Walsenburg CO paralegal can be involved and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited 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 are able to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career in Walsenburg CO as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which can require as little as 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. Once you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and earn a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Colorado to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded certifying organizations 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Walsenburg CO.
Online Paralegal Classes
Online paralegal schools have become more prevalent and can be an excellent option for individuals in Walsenburg CO searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to individuals who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain 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, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and conventional environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the process of evaluating Walsenburg CO area schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate 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 prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other critical aspects to research also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Walsenburg CO law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the Walsenburg CO paralegal schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also provide an avenue for students to start creating contacts within the Walsenburg CO legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Colorado legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws differ among states, it may be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school located in the state where you wish to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to first look at those colleges that are within your Walsenburg CO local area.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential earned and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be available to help minimize part of the cost, so make sure to contact the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Walsenburg CO. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these added expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Walsenburg CO, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you choose makes available that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making-up missed classes due to work, illness or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Walsenburg CO?
Walsenburg is a statutory city that is the county seat and the most populous city of Huerfano County, Colorado, United States. The city population was 3,068 at the 2010 census, down from 4,182 in 2000.
Walsenburg is mentioned in the famous Woody Guthrie song, "Ludlow Massacre". The song recounts an attack by the Colorado National Guard and armed Colorado Fuel & Iron Company camp guards on a tent colony of 1,200 striking coal miners and their families at Ludlow, Colorado, on April 20, 1914. Some two dozen people, including women and children, were killed. The first instance of violence in Walsenburg during the coal strikes is known as the Seventh Street Massacre where a total of three miners died. Walsenburg also became one of the most deadly of all the Ten Days War encounters on April 27, 1914. On this day around 25 people would die. The town is also remembered in sports history due to a famous newspaper gaffe ("Will Overhead") after the 1933 Indianapolis 500.
Walsenburg is located in east-central Huerfano County, on the north side of the Cucharas River at the eastern edge of the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Interstate 25 runs along the eastern edge of the city, with access from Exits 49, 50, and 52. I-25 leads north 48 miles (77 km) to Pueblo and south 36 miles (58 km) to Trinidad. U.S. Route 160 passes through the center of Walsenburg, leading west across North La Veta Pass 72 miles (116 km) to Alamosa and south with I-25 to Trinidad. Colorado State Highway 10 leads northeast from Walsenburg 73 miles (117 km) to La Junta.
The Spanish Peaks Regional Health Center is located 2 miles (3 km) west of Walsenburg on US 160, opposite the entrance to Lathrop State Park. The building houses a state-operated veterans retirement home and a community hospital that serves the area.
Find the Best Paralegal Degree Program near Walsenburg CO
Choosing the ideal paralegal degree program is a vital first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Walsenburg residence. Paralegal academic programs are offered in many formats and lengths. Different types of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you choose to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to assess each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal education you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Walsenburg CO.
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