How to Pick the Best Paralegal Certificate Program Near Chelsea Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Chelsea AL and begin your journey that will lead to a fulfilling profession in legal services. However, it's important that you find the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students begin by looking for schools within traveling distance of their Chelsea homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program should be taken into account too. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you ought 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 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
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill the same job positions and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Chelsea AL attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is usually billed hourly as are the attorney's. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their routine tasks may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really 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 take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a paralegal in Chelsea AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may take as little as six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may want to proceed and earn a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 school (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Programs
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more popular and can be an excellent option for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Chelsea AL students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the ideal choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Chelsea AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other important issues to research as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Chelsea AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are often 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 looking at. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no previous experience, since employers will need 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 reports, such as 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 practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while still in school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the Chelsea AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Since laws vary among states, it may be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. Also, it will be important to establish relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to first investigate those schools that are within the Chelsea AL region.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. However, 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 might be accessible to help offset part of the expense, so make sure to contact the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Chelsea AL. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, some of these added costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while receiving their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Chelsea AL, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you choose provides that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Chelsea Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the best legal assistant degree program is an essential first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Chelsea home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in many formats and lengths. Different types of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But regardless 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 review each program and make your final selection. And with the right education you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Chelsea Alabama.