How to Choose the Best Paralegal Degree 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 fulfilling career in legal services. However, it's important that you find the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic options are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students start by searching for schools within traveling range of their Calera homes. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program should be considered also. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your decision. But first, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill comparable job roles and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Calera AL lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but some of their day-to-day tasks might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other 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 permitted to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly 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 number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education 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 academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Calera AL is by earning a certificate, which can take just 6 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 acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. Once you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might want to continue and earn a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded certifying organizations 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 2 essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Courses
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more popular and may be a good option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Calera AL students who keep working while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and conventional setting, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the ideal option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training choices 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 Calera AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other crucial aspects to research also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, 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 training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Calera AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually offered only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some Calera AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while attending school. They can also present a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Calera AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their success 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 corroborates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it may be advantageous to select a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduating. Also, it will be valuable 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 want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to first look at those colleges that are within the Calera AL region.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don't forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be available to help minimize some of the cost, so be sure to consult with the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Calera AL. Naturally if you choose to attend an online school, some of these added costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while obtaining their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Calera AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making-up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Calera Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the ideal legal assistant certificate program is an important first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Calera residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in numerous lengths and formats. Several kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you decide to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to assess each program and make your final selection. And with the appropriate education you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Calera Alabama.