How to Find the Right Paralegal Studies Program Near Brook Highland Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Brook Highland AL and begin your journey that will result in a fulfilling career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you find 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 one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students begin by trying to find schools within driving range of their Brook Highland residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program should be considered too. Later on in this post we will review a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your decision. But first, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part 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 different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Brook Highland AL attorneys with a wide range of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and abide by 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 day-to-day tasks can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, 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 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 job prospects 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 may involve just 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. After you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and obtain a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help establish 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 school (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Schools
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more available and can be a good alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to Brook Highland AL students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online programs can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the ideal choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Brook Highland AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. 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 previously discussed, there are other important factors to consider also, for instance the reputation and accreditation 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 properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Brook Highland AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically available only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Brook Highland AL law practices that you may be interested 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 may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while attending school. They can also offer a means for students to start developing contacts within the Brook Highland AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Since laws differ among states, it might be advantageous to select a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to initially investigate those schools that are within the Brook Highland AL area.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be accessible to help reduce some of the cost, so be sure to talk to the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Brook Highland AL. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online school, some of these added expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Brook Highland AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in provides that option. Last, ask what the process is for making up classes missed due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Brook Highland Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the ideal paralegal studies training school is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this article, 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 education programs are made available in numerous lengths and formats. Various types of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you decide to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to review each program and make your final selection. And with the right education you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Brook Highland Alabama.