Online Education Courses Are Up and Coming

Are you interested in continuing your education? If so, then online education courses could be the choice for you, especially if you’re currently working full time, or you have limited time available due to other personal commitments. Maybe you have a disability which eliminates your ability to attend traditional campus courses.

If you’re stuck with one of the above listed situations, online courses may in fact be the perfect opportunity to achieve your educational goals. Many people that live with such personal restrictions are taking advantage of these programs due to the overall convenience of the process, and the lower cost as compared to traditional educational costs.

Are the courses and degrees offered online recognized and rated as highly as traditional on campus documents of completion? Probably not at this current moment in time, but as the poor economy continues to negatively effect more and more potential students ability to afford the costs of attending traditional online college campuses, the online educational degrees will become much more recognized and accepted.

These days, unless you’re applying for a high level management or highly skilled position , most hiring managers only want to ensure that you have sufficient training and experience in their particular field of work. Many online courses can provide such training and access to live workshops if necessary to obtain actual hands on experience to master certain skills.

The courses can allow you to obtain the Diploma or Degree required to apply for certain jobs, as well as the ability to answer the appropriate questions during the interview process. That’s basically all that’s needed to get most jobs providing the applicant dresses to empress, and presents Him or Herself well enough during the interview(s).

It’s a well known fact that most hiring Managers don’t do much of an educational background check, but the good news is, if they do the check, you will have obtained the credentials legally. They may not be exactly what the employer was looking for, but you paid, studied, and legally obtained the credentials, and you may very well get the job based on those facts alone.

Insurance Continuing Education

There are many requirements for certification in the insurance industry. One of those requirements is continuing insurance education, which varies in need within each different state. Some states have two-year continuing education requirements, while others might require agents and professionals to take courses annually to keep their certifications up to date. You can find out about your state’s specific laws by contacting the state Department of Insurance that you work in. Most companies will pay for these courses for their employees, as it can be written off as a business expense for many. Before enrolling, its essntial for you to know about the different requirements related to insurance CE so its easy to choose the right traing for you

There are courses in insurance continuing education for agents, adjusters, brokers, and underwriters, as well as programs for risk management and other specialties. The classes for agents, brokers, underwriters, and adjusters cover commercial and personal lines, property, casualty, life and health, and even ethics courses, legal education, and flood insurance CE. Each state has different requirements for continuing i education, and each program that exists is required to be certified by the state Department of Insurance in order to be an approved method of continuing education.

Specialty programs for continuing education include courses for risk management, financial services, insurance company managers, business owners, and other specialties within the indemnity industry. The position of each employee will dictate which continuing education courses need to be taken. In general, most states require an annual or bi-annual refresher course for all agents and professionals, but this can vary depending on the specific certification that the employee has, as well as the state that they reside and work in. Most agents or professionals will learn of their specific requirements to maintain their licensure in their initial training.

Insurance continuing education is different for every person and in every state. However, getting the education that is needed isn’t hard. There are online courses for just about every type of CE that is needed within the insurance industry, including more complex programs for states like Texas that have strict requirements for their agents. The curriculum is not only designed to keep education current, but also to help professionals to increase their business and their own productivity as a result of taking the CE courses. Keeping current licensure in the insurance industry is mandatory, because the job cannot be performed legally without proper state licensing.

Legal Assistants and Paralegals – The Future Is Bright

One of most common ways to become a legal assistant or paralegal is through a community college program that leads to an associate’s degree. Another common route; primarily for those who already have a college degree, is through a program that leads to a certification in paralegal studies.

Many legal assistants and paralegals have associate degrees in paralegal studies or a bachelor’s degree paired with a certificate in paralegal studies. Currently, a small number of schools offer bachelors’ or masters’ degrees in paralegal studies. A few employers train paralegals on the job, hiring college graduates with no legal experience or promoting experienced legal secretaries. Others have gained experience in a technical field useful to law firms, like tax preparation for tax and estate planning, criminal justice, nursing or health administration for personal injury practice.

With 250+ paralegal programs approved by the American Bar Association (ABA) and an estimated 1,000 colleges and universities, law schools and proprietary schools offering formal paralegal training programs – the field is highly represented. Although many programs don’t require ABA approval, graduating from an ABA-approved program can enhance one’s employment opportunities – it’s a credibility thing for some employers.

Program admission requirements vary greatly – from a few college credits or courses to a bachelor’s degree for others, to high school graduates, those with legal experience, passing a standardized test, to simply having a favorable personal interview.

Many legal assistant and paralegal programs include 2-year associate degree programs, 4-year bachelor degree programs and certificate programs that can take as little as a few months to complete. Most certificate programs provide intensive and specialized paralegal training for individuals who already hold college degrees. On the other hand, associate and bachelor degree programs usually combine paralegal training with courses in other academic subjects.

Obviously, the quality of paralegal training programs can vary with the higher quality programs usually including job placement services.

Courses range from introducing students to the legal applications of computers, including how to perform legal research on the Internet to more and more paralegal training programs offering internships to assist students in gaining practical experience by working for several months in the real world. Internships could be with a private law firm, the office of a public defender or attorney general, a bank, a corporate legal department, a legal aid organization or a government agency. Clearly, the experience gained is an asset when one is seeking a job after graduation and for many can lead to a job with the company they interned with.

Most employers don’t require certification but earning a voluntary certificate from a professional society does have its advantages when it comes to finding a job. The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) has established standards for certification that requires various combinations of education and experience. Paralegals who meet their standards are eligible to take a 2-day examination, offered three times a year at one of several regional testing centers. Those who pass can then use the Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) designation. NALA also offers an advanced paralegal certification for those who want to specialize in specific areas of the law.

The Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam offers professional recognition to legal assistants and paralegals that have earned a bachelor’s degree and have at least 2 years of experience. Once they pass this test they can use the Registered Paralegal (RP) designation.

Legal assistants and paralegals must have the ability to document and present their findings and opinions to their supervising attorneys. They also need to understand legal terminology, have good research and investigative skills and be able to do legal research using a computer and the internet. They also need to stay abreast of new developments in the laws that affect their area of expertise. The most common way many legal assistants and paralegals expand their knowledge is by participating in continuing legal education seminars.

Because legal assistants and paralegals deal with the public on an ongoing basis they need to be “shining examples” of ethical standards for the legal profession. The National Association of Legal Assistants, the National Federation of Paralegal Associations and a few States have established ethical guidelines for them to follow.

Employment Outlook

Legal assistants and paralegals held about 224,000 jobs in 2004 with about 70% being employed by private law firms; most of the remainder worked for corporate legal departments and various levels of government. Within the Federal Government, the U.S. Department of Justice is the largest employer, followed by the Social Security Administration and the U.S. Department of the Treasury. A small number of paralegals own their own businesses and work as freelance legal assistants, contracting their services to attorneys or corporate legal departments.

As a whole, employment in this field is projected to grow much faster than average. The current trend of employers trying to reduce costs by hiring paralegals to perform duties formerly carried out by lawyers is expected to continue into the foreseeable future. As a result, employment opportunities are projected to grow much faster than average for the next 10 years or so.

As in all fields, compensation varies greatly due to the high number of variables but in general, salaries depend on education, training, experience, the type and size of employer and the geographic location of the job. As a whole, legal assistants and paralegals who work for large law firms or in large metropolitan areas earn more than those who work for smaller firms or in less populated regions. In addition to salary, many also receive bonuses. In mid 2004, the average salary for all legal assistants or paralegal was a tad over $39,000 per year.

Legal Outsourcing – Politically Correct? Or Politically Incorrect?

Several weeks ago I lectured at a continuing legal education seminar on the opportunities, pitfalls, advantages, disadvantages and benefits of selective legal outsourcing. It wasn’t a “hard sell” talk. Being a litigation attorney myself and having attended scores of legal seminars, I am personally offended by blatant salesmanship offered by some CLE speakers, a practice encouraged by an emerging trend to charge, rather than pay, supposedly qualified speakers to grace the podium. Nonetheless, during the question and answer session at the end of my talk, one younger lawyer was clearly upset at the notion of sending any U.S. jobs offshore. His questions reflected anger, even outrage, at the prospect of any U.S. legal work being sent offshore.

One question bubbles to the top: Is legal outsourcing, or any type of outsourcing, politically correct? A second question follows: What really is political correctness anyway, and why does it matter?

Wikipedia defines political correctness as “a term applied to language, ideas, policies, or behavior seen as seeking to minimize offense to gender, race, cultural, disabled, aged, or other identity groups.” Conversely, political incorrectness is “a term used to refer to language or ideas that may cause offense or are constrained in orthodoxy.” Political correctness has been traced back to Mao’s Little Red Book. The term was adopted in the 1960’s by the radical left as a self-criticism of dogmatic attitudes. In the 1990’s the characterization was used by the political right in the U.S. to discredit the Old and New Left. Almost always used pejoratively, “political correctness” is a label ascribed by one group to another with the purpose of controlling or manipulating thought and/or behavior.

One problem with political correctness is determining who, exactly, is “correct” in their thinking. Should Jesse Jackson or Rush Limbaugh define political thought and social ideas in America? Does it have to be one or the other? What about the slogan “Buy America?” On its face, a movement to buy American goods and products exclusively would seem to be so universally politically correct that no reasonable person could take an alternative position. Wouldn’t buying American-made cars ensure American jobs and help the overall American economy? Well, perhaps, but the Big Three U.S. Automakers are apparently on their way out, while foreign manufacturers such as Honda and Toyota are hanging tough. Why? The Big Three are saddled with union contracts requiring high wages and benefits, even for some retired or laid off “workers” who are not currently producing cars or parts at any GM plant. GM had its best sales year ever in 2007. It sold over 9 million cars all over the world—the same number as Toyota. But Toyota made $20 billion and GM lost $40 billion. One year later, GM is on the rocks. Would the picture have been different if free trade had been restricted and GM could not sell autos any place outside the U.S. and Toyota could not sell in America? Not likely. Businesses run on the bottom line. Do incoming revenues exceed expenses? If not, the remedy is fairly simple: either increase revenues or decrease expenses (or both).

So what does this have to do with U.S. law firms and companies selectively sending some legal work offshore to be produced at significantly lower cost? Assuming that quality offshore legal work can be reasonably obtained, isn’t it crazy to even entertain the idea? Won’t even more U.S. jobs be lost?

On November 11, 2008 The New York Times headline declared: “Law Firms Feel Strain of Layoffs and Cutbacks.” The article noted that law firm personnel, including attorneys, were being laid off because the clients were no longer able to afford the legal fees charged. Indeed, the Financial Times reported a survey concluding that “corporate legal bills soared nearly 20% (in 2006) and could increase by a further 9% in 2007.”

The law firm of Heller Ehrman, founded in 1890, folded in September 2008. This was a firm specializing in big litigation cases, a supposedly recession-proof legal arena. As recently as 2004 Heller ranked second on the American Lawyer’s A-List. Nonetheless, financial challenges led to its demise. In December 2008 a similar fate befell Thelen LLP, an 84 year old law firm, which had 600 lawyers in 2006. At the end of December 2008 Thacher, Proffitt & Wood LLP, hired by the treasury department three weeks earlier to work the the government’s $700 billion bailout, announced it would dissolve. These jobs at these three law firms were not lost because of legal outsourcing, which, at present accounts for but a tiny fraction of U.S. legal service business. They were lost because of financial realities: law firm expenses (salaries being number one) exceeding revenues. Law firm clients are increasingly saying “we can’t pay these ever increasing rates any longer.” Clients question why they should be paying U.S. associate attorneys, for example, $200 or more hourly to perform large scale document review, when this task can be undertaken competently by offshore lawyers at a fraction of the cost. Further, recent ethical opinions by U.S. bar associations (San Diego, New York, and ABA) allow for a law firm sending work offshore to charge its clients a “reasonable supervisory fee” to oversee outsourced legal work. Wouldn’t Heller Ehrman, Thelen and Thacher have been wise to consider selective legal outsourcing as a means to survival, thereby preserving American jobs?

So, is outsourcing some legal work offshore “politically incorrect,” un-American, and likely to lead to a drastic loss of U.S. jobs that would otherwise not occur? Or, instead, is selective legal outsourcing but another tool (like computers, word processing software, voice recognition technology, email) to enhance efficiencies and improve the bottom line for law firms and their clients alike? The decision is best made by you, yourself ,and your firm or company rather than checking the wind and asking, “is it politically correct?”