How to Select the Best Paralegal Training Program Near Calera Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Calera AL and begin your journey that will result in a satisfying profession in legal services. However, it's essential that you find the best school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational choices are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students start by looking for schools within driving distance of their Calera homes. Of those choices, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school need to be considered also. Later in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your decision. But before we do, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill the same job positions and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Calera AL lawyers with a wide variety of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their everyday tasks might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be involved and very demanding. On the other hand, 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 administrative or clerical duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for attorneys. And because 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 otherwise.
Paralegal Training 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 academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Calera AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may take as little as six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more extensive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. Once you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Certificates and Degrees
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more common and can be an excellent option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to Calera AL students who keep working while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures 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 greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a reputable agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the right option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Calera AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of 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 crucial factors to think about also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Calera AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the School? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call a few Calera AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the Calera AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Since laws vary among states, it might be a good idea to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to build relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the area where you want to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to initially consider those colleges that are within the Calera AL region.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be available to help minimize some of the expense, so be sure to contact the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Calera AL. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these additional costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Calera AL, make certain classes are available 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, inquire what the protocol is for making-up missed classes due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Calera Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Enrolling in the right paralegal studies training program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Calera residence. Paralegal academic programs are provided in many lengths and formats. Different types of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced 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 no matter how you decide to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to evaluate each program and make your final decision. And with the ideal training you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Calera Alabama.