How to Choose a Paralegal Certificate Program near Wexford Pennsylvania
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Wexford PA and start your journey that will result in a fulfilling career in legal services. However, it’s important that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to succeed. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic choices are becoming available, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students start by looking for paralegal schools within driving distance of their Wexford homes. Of those options, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be taken into consideration too. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your selection. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational 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 basically both hold the same 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 belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist lawyers in Wexford PA with a wide range of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. 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 practice might help with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is usually billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their everyday activities can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a Wexford PA paralegal can be involved and very demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps 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 begin your career in Wexford PA as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve as little as six months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more expansive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Pennsylvania to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your employment 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Wexford PA.
Online Paralegal Training
Paralegal online schools have become more common and can be an excellent option for students in Wexford PA searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to those who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online classes can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address 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 certain that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a reputable organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the ideal option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can start the process of assessing Wexford PA area schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges, as well as vocational and trade 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 certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other significant factors to research as well, for instance 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 investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Wexford PA law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the Wexford PA paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the Wexford PA legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs 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 offered? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Pennsylvania legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Because laws vary from one state to another, it may be advantageous to choose a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you plan to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to first investigate those colleges that are within your Wexford PA local region.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be available to help offset some of the expense, so don’t forget to contact the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Wexford PA. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these added expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Wexford PA, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you choose provides that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making up missed classes due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Wexford PA?
Wexford is an unincorporated community in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, United States. The area known as Wexford is split among multiple municipalities, including Franklin Park, McCandless Township, Pine Township, and Marshall Township. It is named after County Wexford in Ireland.
Home to many upper-middle-class people, Wexford's commercial landscape is dominated by a mixture of corporate chains, car dealerships, and a number of local small businesses, giving this small town much diversity. Wexford concentrated on the main thoroughfare of the "Wexford Flats", U.S. Route 19. It is also home to what is considered to be one of the top high schools in Pennsylvania, North Allegheny Senior High School. Other schools in the area are Pine-Richland High School, Marshall Middle School, Wexford Elementary School and Vincentian Academy.
It was ranked the twenty-eighth best place to live by Money magazine in 2005, despite it being essentially a postal zip code and a general descriptor of a section of the suburban Pittsburgh metropolitan area, not a municipality of any type. The presence of North Allegheny Senior High School, a large, well funded public high school, the numerous businesses, and a number of churches along the "Wexford Flats" gives the area a more distinct community identity than simply an otherwise unremarkable suburb in the Greater Pittsburgh Area. Adjacent to Wexford is North Park and North Park lake. This area is a great asset to the community featuring many hiking/biking trails, 5-mile paved running path around the lake, many pavilions for outdoor events, outdoor ice rink, golf course, dog parks, many playgrounds, a C.O.P.E. course, and local restaurants and shops. The lake underwent construction, including dredging and refinishing shore lines, between 2009 and 2012.
The Wexford area is a growing community with subdivisions and neighborhoods constantly increasing. To account for the immense increase in population in the past few years and for years to come, the county ultimately expanded U.S. Route 19, the road that runs through the "flats", by adding a center turn lane. Before its expansion, the road was four lanes (two each way), and heavy traffic caused significant problems for drivers attempting to perform left turns.
Enroll in the Ideal Paralegal Certificate Program near Wexford PA
Choosing the ideal paralegal training program is a vital first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Wexford home. Paralegal academic programs are provided in various formats and lengths. Different kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, 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 career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you choose to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to review each program and make your final decision. And with the ideal training you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Wexford PA.
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