How to Select a Paralegal Studies Program near Virginia Beach Virginia
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Virginia Beach VA and start your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it’s essential that you find the best school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students start by trying to find paralegal schools within traveling range of their Virginia Beach homes. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be taken into consideration too. Later in this article we will review a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your selection. But first, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional 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 hold the same job positions and responsibilities, only 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 assist attorneys in Virginia Beach VA with a diverse array of job duties, such as 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 work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their routine activities may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a Virginia Beach VA paralegal can be involved and very demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially 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 quickest means to begin your career in Virginia Beach VA as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which may take just 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might choose to continue and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Virginia to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Virginia Beach VA.
Online Paralegal Programs
Online paralegal programs have become more popular and may be a good option for individuals in Virginia Beach VA searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to individuals who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online schools can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a reputable agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the ideal option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing Virginia Beach VA area schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you add 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 already covered, there are other important factors to think about also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Virginia Beach VA law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the Virginia Beach VA paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also offer a means for students to start creating contacts within the Virginia Beach VA legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Virginia legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws differ among states, it may be a good idea to select a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you wish to practice after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the community where you desire to practice. 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 might want to initially consider those colleges that are within your Virginia Beach VA local region.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be obtainable to help reduce some of the expense, so don’t forget to check with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Virginia Beach VA. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these added costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Virginia Beach VA, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you select makes available that option. Finally, find out what the process is for making up missed classes because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Virginia Beach VA?
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Virginia Beach is an independent city located on the southeastern coast of the Commonwealth of Virginia in the United States. As of the 2010 census, the population was 437,994. In 2015, the population was estimated to be 452,745. Although mostly suburban in character, it is the most populous city in Virginia and the 41st most populous city in the nation. Located on the Atlantic Ocean at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, Virginia Beach is included in the Hampton Roads metropolitan area. This area, known as "America's First Region", also includes the independent cities of Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Suffolk, as well as other smaller cities, counties, and towns of Hampton Roads.
Virginia Beach is a resort city with miles of beaches and hundreds of hotels, motels, and restaurants along its oceanfront. Every year the city hosts the East Coast Surfing Championships as well as the North American Sand Soccer Championship, a beach soccer tournament. It is also home to several state parks, several long-protected beach areas, three military bases, a number of large corporations, two universities, International headquarters and site of the television broadcast studios for Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), Edgar Cayce's Association for Research and Enlightenment, and numerous historic sites. Near the point where the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean meet, Cape Henry was the site of the first landing of the English colonists, who eventually settled in Jamestown, on April 26, 1607.
The city is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as having the longest pleasure beach in the world. It is located at the southern end of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, the longest bridge-tunnel complex in the world.
The Chesepian were the historic indigenous people of the area now known as Tidewater in Virginia at the time of European encounter. Little is known about them but archeological evidence suggests they may have been related to the Carolina Algonquian, or Pamlico people. They would have spoken one of the Algonquian languages. These were common among the numerous tribes of the coastal area, who made up the loose Powhatan Confederacy, numbering in the tens of thousands in population. The Chesepian occupied an area which is now defined as the independent cities of Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, and Virginia Beach.
Enroll in the Best Paralegal College near Virginia Beach VA
Choosing the right paralegal educational program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Virginia Beach home. Paralegal education programs are made available in numerous lengths and formats. Different kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you elect to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to evaluate each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the right education you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Virginia Beach VA.
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