How to Select the Right Paralegal School Near Alexander City Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Alexander City AL and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it's crucial that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational options are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students start by trying to find schools within driving distance of their Alexander City homes. Of those options, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you should 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 concerns that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your choice. But first, let's take 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
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold comparable job roles 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 paralegals and legal assistants help Alexander City AL attorneys with a diverse array 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 transferring documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their everyday activities might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and keep 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 demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases 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 educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Alexander City AL is by earning a certificate, which may require just 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and can be earned at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. Once you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to continue and obtain a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded certifying organizations 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 school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Training
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more prevalent and can be a good alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to Alexander City AL students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online schools can often be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee 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 respected 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 might be the ideal choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Alexander City AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other crucial aspects to research also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Alexander City AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few Alexander City AL law offices 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 among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to start creating contacts within the Alexander City AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job assistance 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 highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ among states, it may be beneficial to select a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the community where you choose to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to initially consider those colleges that are within the Alexander City AL area.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don't forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be accessible to help minimize part of the cost, so don't forget to contact the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Alexander City AL. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these additional 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 need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Alexander City AL, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you select makes available that option. Last, inquire what the process is for making up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Alexander City Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the ideal legal assistant training program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Alexander City residence. Paralegal academic programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Various kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including community and junior 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. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you choose to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to evaluate each school and make your final selection. And with the appropriate training you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Alexander City Alabama.