How to Select the Best Paralegal School Near Albertville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Albertville AL and begin your journey that will result in a fulfilling profession in legal services. However, it's crucial that you locate the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational choices are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students start by searching for schools within traveling range of their Albertville residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program ought to be considered too. Later in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your selection. 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.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part 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 are part of a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Albertville AL attorneys with a diverse array of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their daily tasks can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Albertville AL is by earning a certificate, which may involve as little as six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more extensive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. When you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly regarded certifying organizations 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 paralegal certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Programs
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more common and may be an excellent option for those looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to Albertville AL students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the ideal option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Schools
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Albertville AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other important aspects to think about as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency 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 education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Albertville AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no previous experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking 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 several Albertville AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also offer a means for students to begin creating contacts within the Albertville AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ among states, it might be a good idea to select a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to first investigate those colleges that are within the Albertville AL region.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be obtainable to help reduce some of the cost, so be sure to contact the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Albertville AL. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these added expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Albertville AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you enroll in provides that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making-up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Albertville Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the ideal paralegal training program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Albertville home. Paralegal training programs are made available in many lengths and formats. Several types of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you elect to obtain your education 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 ultimate decision. And with the right education you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Albertville Alabama.