How to Select a Paralegal Studies Program near Wilton Connecticut
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Wilton CT and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it’s essential that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students start by searching for paralegal schools within traveling range of their Wilton homes. Of those options, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school should be taken into account too. Later on in this article we will cover a list of questions that you ought to ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let’s take 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 essentially both hold comparable job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help lawyers in Wilton CT with a diverse array of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. 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 firms, a paralegal’s work is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day tasks may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a Wilton CT paralegal can be involved and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for lawyers. 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 otherwise.
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. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career in Wilton CT as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve as little as 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more expansive education and can be earned at many community colleges in 2 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 may choose to continue and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Connecticut to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. 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 program (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Wilton CT.
Paralegal Online Programs
Online paralegal schools have become more available and can be an excellent option for those in Wilton CT searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to those who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional environment, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the ideal option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can start the process of evaluating Wilton CT area schools. But since there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can 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 most potential 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 important factors to think about also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering 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 respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Wilton CT law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the Wilton CT paralegal programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while still in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start creating contacts within the Wilton CT legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Connecticut legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it might be beneficial to choose a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you want to work after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the area where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to initially investigate those schools that are within your Wilton CT local area.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. Having said that, 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 also. Financial aid may be available to help offset some of the expense, so don’t forget to consult with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Wilton CT. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Wilton CT, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you choose offers that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making-up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Wilton CT?
Officially recognized as a parish in 1726, Wilton is today, like many other Fairfield County towns, an expensive residential community with open lands (a testament to its colonial farming roots), historic architecture and extensive town services. Residents commonly commute to New York City, Stamford, and Norwalk, although there are a number of office buildings in town.
Wilton is home to many successful start-up companies, national strategy and professional services and consulting firms, and global corporations such as ASML, Deloitte & Touche, Sun Products, Breitling USA, Cannondale Bicycle Corporation, Melissa & Doug, Clear Conscience Pet and the Blue Buffalo Company. Many Fortune 1000 companies are headquartered within a 30-minute train or car commute. AIG Financial Products was headquartered in the town. Its trading in credit derivatives essentially bankrupted its parent company, AIG, and helped create the global financial crisis of 2008–2009.
The original 40 families of the parish began their own Congregational church and were allowed by Norwalk to hire a minister (Robert Sturgeon, who also became the town's first schoolmaster), open schools and build roads. During the Revolutionary War in 1777, the British used Wilton as an escape route after their successful raid on Danbury. Several homes were burned, but the town remained intact. In 1802, Wilton was granted a Town Charter by the Connecticut General Assembly and became a political entity independent from Norwalk.
With a strong anti-slavery sentiment by its residents, Wilton Bompey served as a stop on the Underground Railroad primarily at the house of William Wakeman "an earnest abolitionist and undergrounder for many years."
Select the Best Paralegal Training near Wilton CT
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal degree program is an essential first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Wilton residence. Paralegal academic programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Several types of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to 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 wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you choose to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to review each program and make your final decision. And with the right training you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Wilton CT.
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