How to Find the Best Paralegal Degree Program Near Alexander City Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Alexander City AL and start your journey that will result in a satisfying profession in legal services. However, it's essential that you find the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic choices are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students begin by trying to find schools within driving range of their Alexander City residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program must be taken into consideration as well. Later on in this article we will cover a list of questions that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your decision. But first, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both hold comparable job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Alexander City AL lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their day-to-day tasks may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Alexander City AL is by earning a certificate, which can take as little as six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more expansive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Courses
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more popular and may be an excellent option for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Alexander City AL students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a respected agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the ideal choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Alexander City AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most 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 critical factors to think about as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Alexander City AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are often available only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the School? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Alexander City AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also offer a means for students to start creating contacts within the Alexander City AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Since laws differ among states, it may be a good idea to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the area where you wish 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 want to initially consider those schools that are within the Alexander City AL region.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don't forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be accessible to help offset part of the cost, so don't forget to contact the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Alexander City AL. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, some of these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Alexander City AL, verify 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. Last, find out what the process is for making-up missed classes because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Alexander City Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Enrolling in the best legal assistant degree school is an important first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Alexander City home. Paralegal education programs are made available in numerous formats and lengths. Various kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you choose to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to review each school and make your final decision. And with the ideal training you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Alexander City Alabama.