How to Find the Best Paralegal Program Near Andalusia Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Andalusia AL and begin your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you locate the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students begin by trying to find schools within driving distance of their Andalusia residences. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school must be taken into account too. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both fill comparable job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Andalusia AL attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their routine tasks can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and very demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Andalusia AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may require as little as six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. After you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase 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 school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Certificates and Degrees
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more common and can be a good alternative for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to Andalusia AL students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a respected organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the right choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Andalusia AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other critical aspects to consider also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Andalusia AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often available only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Andalusia AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while attending school. They can also present a means for students to start establishing contacts within the Andalusia AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. 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 sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws differ from state to state, it may be advantageous to select a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the community where you choose to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to first consider those schools that are within the Andalusia AL region.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be accessible to help offset some of the expense, so make sure to contact the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Andalusia AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, some of these added expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Andalusia AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you choose makes available that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Andalusia Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the best paralegal studies certificate program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Andalusia residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in numerous formats and lengths. Different kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, 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. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you elect to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to review each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal education you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Andalusia Alabama.