How to Select the Right Paralegal Studies Program Near Attalla Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Attalla AL and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you locate the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students start by searching for schools within driving distance of their Attalla homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be taken into consideration too. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your selection. But first, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both hold the same job positions and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Attalla AL attorneys with a wide range of job duties, 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 are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but some of their routine tasks may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complex and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career as a paralegal in Attalla AL is by earning a certificate, which can involve as little as 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. When you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might choose to continue and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your job opportunities, but help establish 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 school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Classes
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more common and can be an excellent alternative for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to Attalla AL students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a reputable organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the right choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Attalla AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other critical aspects to consider also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency 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 targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Attalla AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically offered only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the School? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, 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 firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while still in school. They can also offer a means for students to start developing contacts within the Attalla AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws differ among states, it might be a good idea to choose a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to create relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the community where you wish to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to first look at those schools that are within the Attalla AL region.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help minimize some of the cost, so don't forget to consult with the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Attalla AL. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, some of these added expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Attalla AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you select offers that option. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making up classes missed due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Attalla Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the ideal paralegal degree program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Attalla residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in various formats and lengths. Various types of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection 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 programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you decide to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to review each program and make your final decision. And with the appropriate training you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Attalla Alabama.