How to Find the Best Paralegal Studies Training Program Near Brook Highland Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Brook Highland AL and start your journey that will lead to a rewarding career in legal services. However, it's crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students start by looking for schools within commuting range of their Brook Highland homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you need to consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school should be considered too. Later in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your decision. But before we do, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold comparable job positions 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 classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Brook Highland AL lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their regular tasks may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated 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. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees 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 opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Brook Highland AL is by earning a certificate, which can require just 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more extensive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. Once you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might want to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few of the highly regarded 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Certificates and Degrees
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more prevalent and can be an excellent option for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to Brook Highland AL students who keep working while earning a degree. As an added advantage, online classes can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school 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 conventional environment, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the right choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Schools
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Brook Highland AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other critical issues to think about as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. 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. Numerous Brook Highland AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually available only for accredited programs.
What's the School's Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, 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 contact a few Brook Highland AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation 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 excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also present a means for students to begin creating contacts within the Brook Highland AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Because laws differ among states, it might be beneficial to choose a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the area where you choose to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially consider those colleges that are within the Brook Highland AL region.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don't forget to include 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 find out what is available in Brook Highland AL. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, some of these added expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Brook Highland AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you select offers that option. Finally, ask what the protocol 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 best legal assistant training school is a vital first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Brook Highland home. Paralegal education programs are offered in various formats and lengths. Various kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you decide to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to assess each program and make your final selection. And with the right training you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Brook Highland Alabama.