How to Select the Right Paralegal Certificate or Degree 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 career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational choices are being offered, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students start by trying to find schools within traveling distance of their Brewton residences. Of those options, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school should be taken into consideration too. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your decision. But before we do, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill the same job roles and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different 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, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is usually billed hourly as are the attorney's. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their regular activities can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be involved and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical tasks more suited 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 have the ability to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a paralegal in Brewton AL is by earning a certificate, which can take just six months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more expansive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected 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 school (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Classes
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more prevalent and may be an excellent alternative for those looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Brewton AL students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online classes can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced 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 training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the right option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can start the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Brewton AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant aspects to consider also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a highly regarded organization 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 targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Brewton AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the Program's Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some Brewton AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also present a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Brewton AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws vary among states, it may be advantageous to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. Also, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to initially look at those colleges that are within the Brewton AL region.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don't forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be obtainable to help minimize some of the cost, so be sure to consult with the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Brewton AL. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Brewton AL, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you select makes available that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Brewton Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the best paralegal studies certificate program is an important first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Brewton home. Paralegal education programs are provided in numerous lengths and formats. Several types of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you choose to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to review each school and make your final selection. And with the ideal training you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Brewton Alabama.