How to Choose a Paralegal Training Program near Westcliffe Colorado
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Westcliffe CO and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. However, it’s essential that you find the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students begin by looking for paralegal schools within driving distance of their Westcliffe homes. Of those choices, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program must be taken into account too. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your choice. But first, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill 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 classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help attorneys in Westcliffe CO with a diverse array of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. 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, a paralegal’s work is normally billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but some of their regular tasks may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a Westcliffe CO paralegal can be complex and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to start your career in Westcliffe CO as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which may take as little as 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more expansive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. When you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Colorado to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. 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 school (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Westcliffe CO.
Online Paralegal Classes
Online paralegal programs have become more available and can be an excellent alternative for those in Westcliffe CO searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to those who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. 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 disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the right option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can begin the process of evaluating Westcliffe CO area schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other important factors to think about as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school 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 may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Westcliffe CO law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the Westcliffe CO paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also present a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Westcliffe CO legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Colorado legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Because laws vary from one state to another, it may be beneficial to choose a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you want to work after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the community where you wish to practice. 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 consider those colleges that are within your Westcliffe CO local area.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential received 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 books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help reduce some of the expense, so make sure to consult with the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Westcliffe CO. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these additional expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Westcliffe CO, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you choose offers that option. Last, inquire what the process is for making up classes missed due to work, illness or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Westcliffe CO?
Westcliffe is located west of the geographic center of Custer County at 38°7′58″N 105°27′57″W / 38.13278°N 105.46583°W / 38.13278; -105.46583 (38.132874, -105.465920). It lies in the Wet Mountain Valley, between the Wet Mountains to the east and the Sangre de Cristo Range to the west. The town of Silver Cliff is immediately to the east of Westcliffe.
Westcliffe, and neighboring Silver Cliff, Colorado are recognized as IDA International Dark Sky Communities by The International Dark-Sky Association. Gentle persuasion has resulted in residents and business in the towns and surrounding ranch land reducing the amount of light pollution.
As of the census of 2000, there were 417 people, 194 households, and 108 families residing in the town. The population density was 367.1 people per square mile (141.2/km²). There were 246 housing units at an average density of 216.6 per square mile (83.3/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 95.44% White, 1.92% Native American, 0.24% Asian, and 2.40% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.16% of the population.
There were 194 households out of which 23.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 46.9% were married couples living together, 6.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 44.3% were non-families. 42.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 19.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.11 and the average family size was 2.91.
Select the Best Paralegal Degree Program near Westcliffe CO
Enrolling in the best paralegal training program is a vital first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed 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 Westcliffe residence. Paralegal academic programs are offered in various formats and lengths. Different types of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But no matter how you elect to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to evaluate each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal training you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Westcliffe CO.
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