How to Pick the Best Paralegal Program Near Chickasaw Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Chickasaw AL and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it's crucial that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational choices are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students start by trying to find schools within traveling range of their Chickasaw homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be taken into account as well. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your selection. But first, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill the same job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, 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 Chickasaw AL lawyers with a wide range of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their daily tasks might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to start your career as a legal assistant in Chickasaw AL is by earning a certificate, which may take as little as 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. Once you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might choose to continue and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Training
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more popular and may be an excellent alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to Chickasaw AL students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online programs can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the ideal option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can start the process of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Chickasaw AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important issues to research also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Chickasaw AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually available only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few Chickasaw AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind 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 give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also provide a means for students to start establishing contacts within the Chickasaw AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Because laws vary from one state to another, it may be a good idea to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the area where you choose to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to first investigate those colleges that are within the Chickasaw AL region.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help offset some of the expense, so be sure to consult with the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Chickasaw AL. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, some of these additional expenses, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Chickasaw AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you choose offers that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making-up classes missed because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Chickasaw Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the ideal legal assistant certificate program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Chickasaw residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Several kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational 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 wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you choose to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to examine each school and make your final decision. And with the right education you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Chickasaw Alabama.