How to Enroll in the Best Paralegal Training Program Near Brewton Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Brewton AL and begin your journey that will lead to a fulfilling profession in legal services. However, it's essential that you locate the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational options are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students start by searching for schools within commuting distance of their Brewton homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school should be taken into account too. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your selection. But first, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill comparable job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Brewton AL lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the attorney's. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their daily activities might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and very demanding. 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 proceeding. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically 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 fastest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Brewton AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve just six months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Certificates and Degrees
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more popular and may be a good alternative for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to Brewton AL students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can often be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss 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 certain that the school and program you are looking into 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 supervised and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the right option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Brewton AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree 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 already covered, there are other crucial factors to research also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Brewton 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 Reputation of the Program? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you pick 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 rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Brewton AL law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start creating contacts within the Brewton AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Because laws vary from one state to another, it might be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the area where you choose to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially consider those schools that are within the Brewton AL area.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential received and the length of training provided. Having said that, 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 assistance may be accessible to help offset part of the expense, so make sure to check with the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Brewton AL. Naturally if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while receiving their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Brewton AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in provides that option. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making-up missed classes due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Brewton Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the best legal assistant certificate 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 participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Brewton home. Paralegal academic programs are made available in many formats and lengths. Different kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you choose to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to examine each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal education you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Brewton Alabama.