How to Pick a Paralegal College near Westfield New Jersey
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Westfield NJ and start your journey that will result in a satisfying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students start by looking for paralegal schools within driving distance of their Westfield homes. Of those options, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be taken into consideration too. Later on in this post we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your selection. But before we do, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational options 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 positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help attorneys in Westfield NJ with a diverse array of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their routine activities can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a Westfield NJ paralegal can be complicated and quite challenging. 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 restricted to administrative or clerical functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to start your career in Westfield NJ as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which can involve as little as 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in New Jersey to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help substantiate 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 program (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Westfield NJ.
Online Paralegal Certificates
Paralegal online schools have become more prevalent and can be a good alternative for those in Westfield NJ searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to those who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the ideal choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating Westfield NJ area schools. But because there are numerous programs available at community and junior 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 especially true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other significant factors to think about as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a recognized 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 targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Westfield NJ law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually available only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the Westfield NJ paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation 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 provide students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Westfield NJ legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult 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 an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with New Jersey legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws differ among states, it might be advantageous to select a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you plan to work after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially investigate those schools that are within your Westfield NJ local area.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be accessible to help minimize some of the cost, so be sure to consult with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is available in Westfield NJ. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, some of these added costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Westfield NJ, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you choose provides that option. Last, ask what the process is for making-up missed classes due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Westfield NJ?
Westfield, New Jersey
Westfield is a town in Union County of New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the town's population was 30,316, reflecting an increase of 672 (+2.3%) from the 29,644 counted in the 2000 Census, which had in turn increased by 774 (+2.7%) from the 28,870 counted in the 1990 Census. According to a 2014 nationwide survey, Westfield is considered to be the 30th-safest city to live in the United States.
The old village area, now the downtown district, was settled in 1720 as part of the Elizabethtown Tract. Westfield was originally formed as a township on January 27, 1794, from portions of Elizabeth Township, while the area was still part of Essex County, and was incorporated on February 21, 1798, as one of New Jersey's initial group of 104 townships by an act of the New Jersey Legislature. It became part of the newly formed Union County on March 19, 1857. Portions of the township have been taken to form Rahway Township (February 27, 1804), Plainfield Township (April 5, 1847), Cranford Township (March 14, 1871), Fanwood Township (March 6, 1878; now known as Scotch Plains) and Mountainside (September 25, 1895). The Town of Westfield was incorporated on March 4, 1903, replacing Westfield Township. The name of the town is derived from its location in the western, undeveloped fields of the Elizabethtown tract.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the town had a total area of 6.743 square miles (17.463 km2), including 6.719 square miles (17.401 km2) of land and 0.024 square miles (0.062 km2) of water (0.36%).
Six municipalities border the town of Westfield: Mountainside to the north, Springfield Township to the northeast, Garwood and Cranford to the east, Clark to the southeast, and Scotch Plains to the west and southwest.
Select the Ideal Paralegal Program near Westfield NJ
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal degree program is a crucial first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Westfield residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Different types of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you decide to receive 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 ideal training you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Westfield NJ.
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