How to Select the Right Paralegal Studies 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 rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you locate the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students start by trying to find schools within driving distance of their Boaz residences. Of those options, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program ought to be taken into consideration as well. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your selection. But first, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold the same job roles 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 Boaz AL attorneys with a wide range of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the attorney's. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their everyday tasks may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a paralegal in Boaz AL is by earning a certificate, which can require as little as 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. Once you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Schools
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more popular and may be an excellent option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to Boaz AL students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online classes can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a respected agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the right option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Boaz AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. 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 discussed, there are other critical aspects to think about also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Boaz AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Boaz AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while still in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the Boaz AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Because laws differ among states, it may be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to first look at those colleges that are within the Boaz AL area.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential received and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don't forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be accessible to help reduce some of the expense, so make sure to contact the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Boaz AL. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while obtaining their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Boaz AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you choose provides that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making up missed classes due to work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Best Boaz Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the right paralegal degree program is an essential first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Boaz home. Paralegal education programs are provided in various lengths and formats. Several kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you choose to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to assess each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the right training you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Boaz Alabama.