How to Enroll in the Right Paralegal Studies Degree Program Near Arab Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Arab AL and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding profession in legal services. However, it's important that you find the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students start by looking for schools within driving distance of their Arab residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you ought to take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school must be taken into account as well. Later in this article we will review a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your choice. But before we do, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both fill the same job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Arab AL lawyers with a wide variety of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is normally billed hourly as are the attorney's. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but some of their day-to-day tasks can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Arab AL is by earning a certificate, which may involve just six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more extensive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. Once you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Classes
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more common and can be a good alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to Arab AL students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain 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 agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and conventional environment, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the right choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Arab AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important issues to consider as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may 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 education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Arab AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually available only for accredited programs.
What's the Program's Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few Arab AL law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also provide a means for students to start creating contacts within the Arab AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Since laws vary among states, it may be a good idea to choose a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the community where you want to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to first consider those colleges that are within the Arab AL region.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential earned and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be accessible to help reduce some of the cost, so make sure to talk to the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Arab AL. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Arab AL, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you choose offers that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Arab Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the best paralegal studies certificate program is an important first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Arab residence. Paralegal academic programs are provided in many lengths and formats. Various kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But no matter how you decide to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to assess each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the right training you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Arab Alabama.