How to Enroll in the Best Paralegal Studies Course Near Chickasaw Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Chickasaw AL and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students start by looking for schools within traveling range of their Chickasaw residences. Of those choices, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you ought to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program should be taken into consideration as well. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your decision. But before we do, let's have 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 hold the same job positions and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Chickasaw AL attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their regular activities might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and quite challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Chickasaw AL is by earning a certificate, which may involve as little as 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more extensive education and can 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 earned either a certificate or degree, you might want to proceed and get a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected certifying agencies 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (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 paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Programs
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more common and can be a good option for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Chickasaw AL students who keep working while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional environment, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the right choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Chickasaw AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other important aspects to research as well, for instance 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 researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Chickasaw AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are often accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the School? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking 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 confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Chickasaw AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the Chickasaw AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it may be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially consider those schools that are within the Chickasaw AL region.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential received and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be available to help reduce some of the expense, so make sure to talk to 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 program, a portion these added expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Chickasaw AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you choose provides that option. Last, inquire what the protocol is for making up missed classes because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Chickasaw Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the best legal assistant certificate program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Chickasaw residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in many lengths and formats. Several types of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you elect to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to review each school and make your final decision. And with the right training you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Chickasaw Alabama.