How to Choose the Right Paralegal Course Near Auburn Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Auburn AL and start your journey that will lead to a rewarding career in legal services. However, it's essential that you find the best school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students begin by trying to find schools within traveling range of their Auburn homes. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be taken into account also. Later in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your choice. But before we do, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill comparable job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Auburn AL lawyers 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 relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their routine tasks can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and very demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Auburn AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve as little as six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. When you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might want to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. 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 cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Certificates and Degrees
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more prevalent and can be an excellent alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to Auburn AL students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional environment, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the ideal option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can start the process of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Auburn AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other critical issues to consider as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a highly regarded 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 targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Auburn AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the School? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including 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 offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to start creating contacts within the Auburn AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Because laws differ from state to state, it may be beneficial to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the area where you wish to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to first look at those schools that are within the Auburn AL region.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential received and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be available to help minimize part of the expense, so make sure to contact the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Auburn AL. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, some of these additional costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Auburn AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you enroll in offers that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making-up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Auburn Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the best paralegal studies training program is an essential first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Auburn residence. Paralegal training programs are made available in numerous formats and lengths. Several types of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you choose to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to examine each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the right education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Auburn Alabama.