How to Find a Paralegal Degree Program near Stilwell Oklahoma
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Stilwell OK and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you find the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students begin by looking for paralegal schools within driving distance of their Stilwell homes. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you need to consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be considered as well. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your decision. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional 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 basically both hold the same job positions and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help lawyers in Stilwell OK with a wide range of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are based upon 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, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their everyday tasks can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a Stilwell OK paralegal can be complex and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training 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 educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to start your career in Stilwell OK as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which can involve as little as six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can be acquired 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. After you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Oklahoma to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded 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 obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Stilwell OK.
Online Paralegal Degrees
Online paralegal programs have become more common and may be a good alternative for individuals in Stilwell OK looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to those who continue to work while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online schools can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in more 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 program and school you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the ideal choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Schools
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing Stilwell OK area schools. But since there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. 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 critical aspects to consider also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should 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 obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Stilwell OK law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often available only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the Stilwell OK paralegal schools you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also offer a means for students to start creating contacts within the Stilwell OK legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Oklahoma legal services employers. It also confirms 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 may be a good idea to select a paralegal school located in the state where you plan to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the area where you desire 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 may wish to initially investigate those colleges that are within your Stilwell OK local region.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be available to help reduce part of the expense, so be sure to check with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is available in Stilwell OK. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these added costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Stilwell OK, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you select offers that option. Last, ask what the procedure is for making-up classes missed due to work, illness or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Stilwell OK?
Stilwell is a city and county seat of Adair County, Oklahoma, United States. The population was 3,949 at the 2010, an increase of 20.5 percent from 3,276 at the 2000 census. In 1949, the Oklahoma governor and legislature proclaimed Stilwell as the "Strawberry Capital of the World." Stilwell also serves as a gateway to Lake Tenkiller and the former Adair State Park.
The town was named after Arthur Stilwell, noted philanthropist and founder of the Kansas City Southern Railway. It was built because of the construction of the railroad, and was incorporated on January 2, 1897.
As early as 1901, Stilwell and Westville vied for the role of county seat. When Adair County was formed in 1907, Westville was identified as the county seat, due partly to its location at the intersection of two major railroads: the Kansas City Southern Railway and the St. Louis–San Francisco Railway. After three intensely contested elections, however, Oklahoma governor Charles Haskell proclaimed Stilwell as the county seat on May 6, 1910.
During the Great Depression and World War II, strawberries became a major crop in Adair County. In 1948, the first Stilwell Strawberry Festival was organized. In 1949, the state governor and legislature proclaimed Stilwell as "Strawberry Capital of the World." The 2002 festival saw some 40,000 people in attendance.
Enroll in the Best Paralegal Certificate Program near Stilwell OK
Selecting the best paralegal degree program is an important first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Stilwell residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in many lengths and formats. Several types of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you decide to receive your education 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 final selection. And with the appropriate training you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Stilwell OK.
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