How to Choose a Paralegal College near Whippany New Jersey
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Whippany NJ and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational choices are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students start by searching for paralegal schools within traveling range of their Whippany residences. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school must be taken into account too. Later on in this article we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your decision. But first, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic choices 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 roles 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 category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help lawyers in Whippany NJ with a wide range of job duties, such as 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 are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day activities might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a Whippany NJ paralegal can be complicated and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, 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 job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career in Whippany NJ as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which may take as little as six months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in New Jersey to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. 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 address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Whippany NJ.
Online Paralegal Degrees
Paralegal online programs have become more common and may be a good option for those in Whippany NJ searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online programs can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the right choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing Whippany NJ area schools. But because there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many prospective 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 crucial factors to research also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a respected 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 focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Whippany NJ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the Whippany NJ paralegal programs you are considering. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking 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 which schools they recommend. Remember that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the Whippany NJ legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with New Jersey legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it may be advantageous to choose a paralegal school located in the state where you want to work after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to first investigate those colleges that are within your Whippany NJ local area.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential earned and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help minimize part of the expense, so be sure to check with the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Whippany NJ. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, some of these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Whippany NJ, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you choose offers that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making up missed classes due to work, illness or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Whippany NJ?
Whippany, New Jersey
Whippany is an unincorporated community located within Hanover Township in Morris County, New Jersey, United States. Whippany's name is derived from the Whippanong Native Americans, a tribe that once inhabited the area. Whippanong meant "place of the willows", named for the trees growing along the banks of the Whippany River.
The earliest European settlers to live along the Whippany River can be traced back to 1685. The Whippany River was an integral part of life in the area; it provided the water power for the various mills which operated in the town.
Select the Ideal Paralegal Degree Program near Whippany NJ
Choosing the best 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 participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Whippany home. Paralegal training programs are offered in many formats and lengths. Several kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you elect to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to assess each school and make your final selection. And with the right education you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Whippany NJ.
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