How to Pick a Paralegal Degree Program near West Kingston Rhode Island
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near West Kingston RI and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you locate the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic options are being offered, both on campus and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students start by looking for paralegal schools within traveling distance of their West Kingston homes. Of those choices, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program should be considered as well. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your choice. But first, 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 essentially both hold the same job roles and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist attorneys in West Kingston RI with a wide range of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. 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 assist with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree 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 might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a West Kingston RI paralegal can be complicated and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, 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 fastest means to launch your career in West Kingston RI as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which can require as little as 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. Once you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Rhode Island to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some 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 important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in West Kingston RI.
Online Paralegal Degrees
Paralegal online programs have become more available and can be a good option for individuals in West Kingston RI looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to those who keep working while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online schools can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a reputable organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the ideal option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can start the process of evaluating West Kingston RI area schools. But since there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most prospective 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 significant aspects to think about as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous West Kingston RI law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the West Kingston RI paralegal schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while attending school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the West Kingston RI legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Rhode Island legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws differ among states, it may be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you plan to practice after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the community where you wish to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to first consider those schools that are within your West Kingston RI local region.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be accessible to help minimize some of the expense, so be sure to consult with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in West Kingston RI. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online program, some of these additional expenses, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near West Kingston RI, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you choose provides that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making up missed classes due to work, illness or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in West Kingston RI?
West Kingston, Rhode Island
West Kingston is an unincorporated village in the town of South Kingstown in the U.S. state of Rhode Island. West Kingston is the site of the Kingston Railroad Station Amtrak station. Before Rhode Island abolished county government, West Kingston was the county seat of Washington County, Rhode Island for many years, although it itself is a village and therefore hosts no local government.
Although unincorporated, West Kingston has a post office and recognized mailing address location. It shares zip code 02892 with much of western South Kingstown, a large portion of Richmond, Rhode Island to the west, and small parts of Exeter, Rhode Island to the north. However, West Kingston is not a part of the latter two towns.
Select the Best Paralegal Degree Program near West Kingston RI
Enrolling in the best paralegal degree program is a crucial first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your West Kingston home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Several types of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you elect to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to assess each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the right education you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in West Kingston RI.
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