How to Find the Right Paralegal Certificate Program Near Albertville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Albertville AL and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. However, it's important that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the extensive 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 educational choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students start by trying to find schools within driving distance of their Albertville homes. Of those choices, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you need to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program ought to be taken into consideration too. Later in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your choice. But before we do, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold the same job positions and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Albertville AL lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day activities may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be involved and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites 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 can require just 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more extensive education and may be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. Once you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might want to continue and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly regarded 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 paralegal degree or certificate from an accredited program (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 either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Classes
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more available and can be an excellent option for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to Albertville AL students who keep working while earning a degree. As an added advantage, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more 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 program and school you are thinking about 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 structured and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the ideal choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Albertville AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other crucial factors to consider as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose should be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Albertville AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Albertville AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the Albertville AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Because laws vary from one state to another, it may be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to build relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the community where you desire to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to initially look at those schools that are within the Albertville AL area.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be available to help minimize part of the cost, so be sure to consult with the school's financial aid department to see what is offered in Albertville AL. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, some of these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while receiving their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely 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, confirm that the program you enroll in offers that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making-up missed classes due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Albertville Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the right paralegal certificate school is a crucial first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Albertville home. Paralegal education programs are provided in various lengths and formats. Various kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But no matter how you choose to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to review each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal training you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Albertville Alabama.