How to Choose the Best Paralegal Studies Program Near Chickasaw Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Chickasaw AL and start your journey that will result in a satisfying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you locate the best 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 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? A number of potential students start by trying to find schools within driving distance of their Chickasaw homes. Of those choices, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program must be taken into account also. Later on in this post we will cover a list of questions that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your choice. But first, 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.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold comparable job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Chickasaw AL attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but some of their day-to-day activities can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be involved and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Chickasaw AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve just 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can be earned at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. When you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded certifying organizations in the profession 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 address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Schools
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more prevalent and may be an excellent option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to Chickasaw AL students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online programs can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover 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 organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the ideal choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that 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 so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Chickasaw AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other important factors to research also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a highly regarded 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 targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Chickasaw AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically offered only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the School? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Chickasaw AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation 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 outstanding reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while attending school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the Chickasaw AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary from state to state, it may be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the community where you want to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to initially look at those schools that are within the Chickasaw AL region.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential received and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don't forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be available to help reduce part of the cost, so don't forget to check with the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Chickasaw AL. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, some of these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Chickasaw AL, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you select provides that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making-up missed classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Chickasaw Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the best legal assistant training program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Chickasaw home. Paralegal academic programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Several kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you decide to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to evaluate each school and make your final selection. And with the ideal training you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Chickasaw Alabama.