How to Pick the Best Paralegal Studies School Near Attalla Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Attalla AL and start your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. However, it's essential that you find the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students start by looking for schools within driving distance of their Attalla residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program ought to be taken into account too. Later on in this post we will review a list of questions that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your selection. But first, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill comparable job positions and responsibilities, only 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 Attalla AL attorneys with a wide variety of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer'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 mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their daily activities may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals 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 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 actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Attalla AL is by earning a certificate, which can require as little as 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more expansive education and may be earned 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. After you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might choose to continue and receive a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your job 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Courses
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more available and can be an excellent option for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to Attalla AL students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online classes can often be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a respected agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the ideal option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Attalla 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 if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other critical aspects to consider also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, 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 education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Attalla AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the School? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you pick 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 Attalla AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs give 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 establishing contacts within the Attalla AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Because laws differ among states, it may be a good idea to select a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the area where you choose to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to initially investigate those schools that are within the Attalla AL region.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be available to help reduce part of the cost, so make sure to talk to the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Attalla AL. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, some of these additional expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Attalla AL, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you select provides that option. Last, find out what the procedure is for making-up missed classes because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Right Attalla Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the best paralegal training program is a vital first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Attalla home. Paralegal training programs are provided in numerous formats and lengths. Different kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade 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 broad range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you elect to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to review each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the right education you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Attalla Alabama.