How to Pick the Right Paralegal Studies School Near Center Point Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Center Point AL and begin your journey that will result in a satisfying profession in legal services. However, it's crucial that you find the best school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic options are being offered, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students start by searching for schools within driving distance of their Center Point residences. Of those alternatives, they look for 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 should consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program should be considered too. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both fill comparable job roles and functions, just with different titles. However, 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 Center Point AL lawyers with a diverse array 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 practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with trial logistics or transferring documents 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 perform with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but some of their daily tasks may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative functions more apropos 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 ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Center Point AL is by earning a certificate, which may require as little as six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Programs
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more available and can be an excellent option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to Center Point AL students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address 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 program and school you are considering are accredited by a respected organization, 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 degree or certificate online could be the right option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Center Point AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. 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 already covered, there are other significant factors to research as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select should be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Center Point AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the Program? 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 previous experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, 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 some Center Point AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also offer a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Center Point AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Because laws differ from state to state, it might be a good idea to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the community where you desire to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially investigate those schools that are within the Center Point AL region.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be accessible to help reduce some of the cost, so don't forget to talk to the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Center Point AL. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Center Point AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you select offers that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making-up missed classes due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Center Point Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the ideal legal assistant training school is a vital first step toward 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 attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Center Point residence. Paralegal academic programs are offered in various lengths and formats. Various types of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact 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 rewarding profession. But regardless of how you choose to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to examine each program and make your final selection. And with the appropriate training you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Center Point Alabama.