How to Enroll in the Best Paralegal Studies Course 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 profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you locate the best school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students start by looking for schools within driving distance of their Auburn homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school need to be taken into consideration too. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your choice. But first, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill comparable job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Auburn AL attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but some of their daily tasks may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be involved and very challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers 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 previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Auburn AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve as little as six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. After you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected certifying agencies 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Programs
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more popular and can be a good option for students searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to Auburn AL students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online programs can often be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the ideal choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Auburn AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate 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 looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other critical aspects to research also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Auburn AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the School's Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some Auburn AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also provide a means for students to start establishing contacts within the Auburn AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering 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 most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it may be advantageous to choose a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduation. In addition, it will be important to create relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the community where you choose to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially consider those colleges that are within the Auburn AL area.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be available to help offset some of the cost, so be sure to consult with the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Auburn AL. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these additional expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and require 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, confirm that the program you select offers that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making up classes missed because of work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Right Auburn Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the ideal paralegal degree program is a vital first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Auburn home. Paralegal academic programs are provided in various lengths and formats. Different types of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you choose to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to examine each program and make your final decision. And with the appropriate education you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Auburn Alabama.