How to Select the Right Paralegal Certificate Program Near Chelsea Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Chelsea AL and start your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you locate the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students begin by looking for schools within commuting distance of their Chelsea residences. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you need to consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program ought to be taken into account too. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold the same job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Chelsea AL lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their routine activities may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay 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 complex and rather challenging. 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 confined to administrative or clerical tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main 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 alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Chelsea AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve as little as six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. When you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might want 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 boost your career 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 address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Certificates and Degrees
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more prevalent and may be an excellent option for those looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to Chelsea AL students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at a minimum 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 thinking about are accredited by a respected organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the ideal option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Chelsea AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you include 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 crucial issues to research also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Chelsea AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the School? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Chelsea AL law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also provide an avenue for students to start creating contacts within the Chelsea AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Because laws differ from state to state, it may be beneficial to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to initially investigate those schools that are within the Chelsea AL area.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be accessible to help reduce part of the cost, so make sure to contact the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Chelsea AL. Naturally if you decide 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? A number of legal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Chelsea AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in offers that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making-up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Chelsea Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the right paralegal certificate school is an important first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Chelsea home. Paralegal education programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Various kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you decide to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to examine each school and make your final selection. And with the right education you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Chelsea Alabama.