How to Pick the Best Paralegal Training Program Near Brewton Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Brewton AL and start your journey that will lead to a fulfilling career in legal services. However, it's crucial that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive 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 educational alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students start by searching for schools within traveling distance of their Brewton residences. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be taken into consideration too. Later on in this post we will review a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your selection. But before we do, 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.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold the same job positions and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, 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 Brewton AL lawyers with a wide range of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their everyday tasks might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Brewton AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve as little as six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more extensive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. When you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to continue and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected certifying agencies 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 2 crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Training
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more common and can be a good alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Brewton AL students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum 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 instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the ideal choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Brewton AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other important factors to research also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Brewton AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Brewton AL law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Brewton AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without support. 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 sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it might be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the community where you want to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to first consider those colleges that are within the Brewton AL area.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don't forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be available to help offset some of the cost, so don't forget to talk to the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Brewton AL. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online program, some of these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Brewton AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you choose offers that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making-up classes missed due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Brewton Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the ideal paralegal training program is an essential first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Brewton residence. Paralegal academic programs are made available in many formats and lengths. Different kinds of private and public institutions make available 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 profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you decide to receive 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 appropriate training you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Brewton Alabama.