How to Find the Right Paralegal Program Near Andalusia Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Andalusia AL and start your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. However, it's crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational options are becoming available, both at school and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students begin by looking for schools within commuting range of their Andalusia residences. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be taken into account too. Later on in this post we will cover a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both fill the same job positions and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Andalusia AL attorneys with a wide variety of job duties, such as 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. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is typically billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their routine tasks might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep 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 permitted to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably 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 start your career as a paralegal in Andalusia AL is by earning a certificate, which may take just six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and may 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 as well. Once you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected certifying agencies 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 earning a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Schools
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more common and may be a good option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to Andalusia AL students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online classes can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the right option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Andalusia AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to 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 also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other crucial issues to consider as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency 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 training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Andalusia 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 offered only for accredited programs.
What's the Program's Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Andalusia AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also present a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Andalusia AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it might be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. Also, it will be important to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the area where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to first look at those colleges that are within the Andalusia AL area.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. However, 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 may be available to help minimize part of the cost, so make sure to talk to the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Andalusia AL. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Andalusia AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you choose provides that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Andalusia Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the best legal assistant training school is an important first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Andalusia home. Paralegal academic programs are made available in numerous formats and lengths. Several kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you decide to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to review each school and make your final decision. And with the ideal education you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Andalusia Alabama.