How to Choose the Right Paralegal Studies Degree Program Near Alexander City Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Alexander City AL and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic choices are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students begin by searching for schools within driving distance of their Alexander City residences. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school must be considered as well. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your selection. But first, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold comparable job positions and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Alexander City AL attorneys with a wide variety of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their day-to-day activities might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complex and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because 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 previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Alexander City AL is by earning a certificate, which may involve as little as 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more extensive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. Once you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. 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 discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Training
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more popular and can be an excellent option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to Alexander City AL students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a respected organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the right option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Alexander City AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other significant issues to research as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Alexander City AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often offered only for accredited programs.
What's the Program's Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no previous work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call a few Alexander City AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Alexander City AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Because laws differ from one state to another, it might be advantageous to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to build relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you want to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to first look at those colleges that are within the Alexander City AL region.
How Much 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 expenditure for your education. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help offset some of the expense, so be sure to consult 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, some of these added costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely 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, make certain that the program you select makes available that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making-up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Alexander City Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the right paralegal studies training school is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered 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 training programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Different types of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you decide to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to examine each school and make your final decision. And with the ideal education you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Alexander City Alabama.