How to Find the Right Paralegal 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 fulfilling career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you find the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic options are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students begin by searching for schools within traveling range of their Chelsea residences. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school must be taken into account as well. Later on 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 before making your choice. But before we do, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both fill comparable job roles and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Chelsea AL lawyers with a wide variety of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their daily tasks can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents 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 additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complex and very challenging. 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 action. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Chelsea AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may take just 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. When you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Programs
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more popular and may be an excellent option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Chelsea AL students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss 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 certain that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the right choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Chelsea AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective 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 significant aspects to consider as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also obtain 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 demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Chelsea AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the School? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you choose 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 quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some Chelsea AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide 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 schools you are reviewing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ from one state to another, it might be a good idea to select a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduating. In addition, it will be important to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the community where you choose 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 first look at those colleges that are within the Chelsea AL area.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be accessible to help offset part of the cost, so make sure to talk to the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Chelsea AL. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, some of these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Chelsea AL, make sure 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. Last, ask what the process is for making up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Chelsea Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the right paralegal studies degree school is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Chelsea residence. Paralegal training programs are made available in numerous formats and lengths. Different kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you decide to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to examine each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the right training you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Chelsea Alabama.