How to Enroll in the Right Paralegal Certificate Program Near Anniston Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Anniston AL and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding profession in legal services. However, it's important that you locate the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students begin by looking for schools within traveling range of their Anniston homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school must be taken into account too. Later in this article we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold the same job roles and responsibilities, 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 classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Anniston AL lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, such as 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 work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is normally billed hourly as are the attorney's. And just like attorneys, they must perform 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 work, but some of their routine tasks might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Anniston AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can require just 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your job 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 school (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Schools
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more common and may be a good alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to Anniston AL students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a respected agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the ideal choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Anniston AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most potential 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 important aspects to consider as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Anniston AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically offered only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some Anniston AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while still in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Anniston AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have sizable networks and good 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 may be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially look at those schools that are within the Anniston AL area.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential received and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don't forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be available to help minimize some of the expense, so be sure to talk to the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Anniston AL. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Anniston AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you select provides that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making up missed classes because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Anniston Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal studies certificate program is a crucial 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 on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Anniston residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in numerous lengths and formats. Several kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including junior and community 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 wide range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you choose to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to examine each school and make your final selection. And with the ideal education you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Anniston Alabama.