How to Select the Right Paralegal Studies Training Program Near Attalla Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Attalla AL and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you locate the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic choices are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students begin by looking for schools within driving range of their Attalla homes. Of those choices, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you need to consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be considered 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 evaluate and compare every one before making your decision. But before we do, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both fill the same job positions and functions, 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 category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Attalla AL lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their day-to-day activities might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to start your career as a paralegal in Attalla AL is by earning a certificate, which can involve just 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more extensive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. Once you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to continue and earn a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some of the highly regarded certifying organizations in the profession 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 crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Certificates and Degrees
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more prevalent and can be an excellent alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Attalla AL students who keep working while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online schools can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover 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 sure that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the right option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Attalla AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to learn 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 many prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other critical factors to research as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Attalla AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the Program's Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the program 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 determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Attalla AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the Attalla AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement 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 substantiates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws vary among states, it may be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to create relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the community where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to initially consider those colleges that are within the Attalla AL region.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential received and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help offset part of the expense, so make sure to check with the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Attalla AL. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, some of these added costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Attalla AL, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you select makes available that option. Last, inquire what the process is for making up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Attalla Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal studies training school is a crucial first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Attalla residence. Paralegal training programs are made available in numerous lengths and formats. Several types of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But no matter how you choose to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to evaluate each school and make your final decision. And with the ideal education you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Attalla Alabama.