How to Choose the Right Paralegal School Near Chickasaw Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Chickasaw AL and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you find the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. 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 being offered, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students start by looking for schools within driving distance of their Chickasaw homes. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school must be taken into consideration too. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold the same job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Chickasaw AL lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties 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 are employed, but some of their routine activities might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complex and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a legal assistant in Chickasaw AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve just six months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. When you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few 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 school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Programs
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more available and can be a good alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to Chickasaw AL students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can often be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into 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 setting, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the ideal choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Schools
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Chickasaw AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other important aspects to consider 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 properly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Chickasaw AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are often accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you choose is accredited is a good 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 contact several Chickasaw AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also provide a means for students to start creating contacts within the Chickasaw AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Because laws differ from state to state, it might be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be important to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially look at those colleges that are within the Chickasaw AL area.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don't forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help reduce part of the expense, so make sure to contact the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Chickasaw AL. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Chickasaw AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you choose offers that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making-up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Chickasaw Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the ideal paralegal training school is an important first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Chickasaw residence. Paralegal academic programs are provided in various formats and lengths. Different kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you choose to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to review each program and make your final decision. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Chickasaw Alabama.