How to Select the Best Paralegal Training Program Near Chelsea Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Chelsea AL and start your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you find the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic options are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students start by looking for schools within driving range of their Chelsea residences. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be considered too. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your choice. But first, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill comparable job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Chelsea AL lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their daily activities can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be involved and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career as a paralegal in Chelsea AL is by earning a certificate, which may take as little as 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. When you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected 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 program (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Schools
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more prevalent and can be a good alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to Chelsea AL students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online programs can often be less costly than on campus 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 discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the ideal option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Chelsea AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential 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 significant aspects to consider also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a respected 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 focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Chelsea AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically available only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some Chelsea AL law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the Chelsea AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary from state to state, it might be beneficial to select a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduating. Also, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to first investigate those schools that are within the Chelsea AL area.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to include 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 office to see what is available in Chelsea AL. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these added expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Chelsea AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select provides that option. Last, ask what the process is for making up missed classes because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Best Chelsea Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the best paralegal studies certificate school is a crucial first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed 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 Chelsea residence. Paralegal training programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Various types of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you decide to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to examine each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate training you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Chelsea Alabama.