How to Pick the Best Paralegal School Near Boaz Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Boaz AL and begin your journey that will result in a satisfying career in legal services. However, it's essential that you find the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic options are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students start by searching for schools within commuting range of their Boaz homes. Of those choices, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be considered too. Later on in this post we will review a list of concerns that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your decision. But first, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants 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 help Boaz AL attorneys with a wide range of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their regular tasks can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other 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 give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a legal assistant in Boaz AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve as little as 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more expansive education and can be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. When you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some of the highly regarded 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Training
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more available and can be a good option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to Boaz AL students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address 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 sure that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a reputable organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the ideal option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Boaz AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other crucial factors to think about as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Boaz AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically offered only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no previous work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing 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 Boaz AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also present a means for students to start developing contacts within the Boaz AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without support. 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 large networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it might be beneficial to choose a paralegal 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 local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Boaz AL region.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be available to help reduce some of the expense, so don't forget to contact the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Boaz AL. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, some of these additional costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Boaz AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making-up classes missed because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Best Boaz Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the right paralegal studies training school is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed 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 Boaz residence. Paralegal academic programs are provided in various formats and lengths. Several kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But no matter how you decide to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to examine each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal training you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Boaz Alabama.