How to Find the Best Paralegal Studies Program Near Auburn Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Auburn AL and start your journey that will result in a gratifying 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 be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students start by searching for schools within commuting distance of their Auburn residences. Of those options, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be considered as well. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your choice. But first, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
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 classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Auburn AL lawyers with a wide variety of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their regular activities can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep 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 complicated and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Auburn AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can take as little as six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. Once you have earned 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 may not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Programs
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more common and may be a good option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Auburn AL students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the ideal choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Auburn AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other significant aspects to think about as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose should be accredited by a recognized organization 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 targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Auburn AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are often available only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no previous experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Auburn AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also present a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Auburn AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are evaluating provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Because laws differ from state to state, it may be advantageous to select a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to build relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the area 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 look at those schools that are within the Auburn AL area.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. However, 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 aid may be accessible to help minimize some of the cost, so don't forget to contact the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Auburn AL. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, some of these added costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Auburn AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you enroll in offers that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Auburn Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Enrolling in the right paralegal studies training program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Auburn home. Paralegal training programs are made available in numerous lengths and formats. Several types of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including community 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. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you elect to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to assess each school and make your final decision. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Auburn Alabama.