How to Find the Right Paralegal Course Near Athens Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Athens AL and start your journey that will lead to a rewarding career in legal services. However, it's crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational choices are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students start by searching for schools within commuting range of their Athens homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program ought to be taken into account also. Later on in this article we will cover a list of questions that you ought to ask potential 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 educational alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both fill the same job roles and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Athens AL attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their regular tasks can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a paralegal in Athens AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can require just 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more extensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. Once you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few 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 program (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Courses
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more prevalent and can be an excellent option for students looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to Athens AL students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a reputable organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the ideal choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Athens AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other crucial issues to research as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, 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 education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Athens AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually offered only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school 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 verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some Athens AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Athens AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing 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 highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary from one state to another, it might be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be important to build 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 practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to first investigate those schools that are within the Athens AL region.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don't forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help minimize some of the cost, so make sure to consult with the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Athens AL. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Athens AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you choose provides that option. Finally, inquire what the procedure is for making-up classes missed because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Athens Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the ideal legal assistant training program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Athens residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in numerous lengths and formats. Various types of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you decide to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the right education you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Athens Alabama.