How to Select the Best Paralegal Studies School Near Brook Highland Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Brook Highland AL and start your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. However, it's crucial that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students begin by trying to find schools within commuting range of their Brook Highland homes. Of those choices, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school need to be taken into account too. Later in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your choice. But first, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold the same job roles and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Brook Highland AL lawyers with a wide range of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but some of their everyday activities may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite 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 they are not confined to clerical or administrative functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a legal assistant in Brook Highland AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can take as little as six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. Once you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your employment 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 cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Schools
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more common and can be a good option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to Brook Highland AL students who keep working while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online schools can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a respected agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional setting, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the ideal option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Brook Highland AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other important factors to research as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a highly regarded 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 help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Brook Highland AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Brook Highland AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Brook Highland AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ among states, it might be advantageous to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduating. Also, it will be important to build relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the area where you desire to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to initially consider those colleges that are within the Brook Highland AL area.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be accessible to help minimize part of the cost, so make sure to contact the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Brook Highland AL. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Brook Highland 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 enroll in makes available that option. Last, find out what the procedure is for making up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Brook Highland Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the right paralegal studies certificate program is a crucial first step to guarantee 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 attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Brook Highland home. Paralegal training programs are provided in many lengths and formats. Different kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as 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, choose wisely. Afford 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 degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to assess each program and make your final selection. And with the appropriate training you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Brook Highland Alabama.