How to Select the Right Paralegal Studies School 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 rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you locate the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic options are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students begin by looking for schools within traveling range of their Alexander City homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school should be taken into account too. Later on in this article we will review a list of questions that you should ask potential 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 alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both fill the same job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Alexander City AL attorneys with a wide variety of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their day-to-day activities may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to start your career as a legal assistant in Alexander City AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can require just six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer 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 also. After you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some 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 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 ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Training
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more popular and can be an excellent alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to Alexander City AL students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the ideal choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Alexander City AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other critical issues to consider as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a reputable 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 online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Alexander City AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some Alexander City AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while attending school. They can also present a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Alexander City AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary among states, it may be a good idea to select a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be important to establish relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the area where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Alexander City AL region.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don't forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be available to help minimize part of the expense, so be sure to check with the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Alexander City AL. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while getting their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Alexander City AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you select offers that option. Last, ask what the process is for making up classes missed because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Alexander City Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal studies certificate program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Alexander City home. Paralegal education programs are offered in various lengths and formats. Various types of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you elect to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to examine each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the right education you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Alexander City Alabama.