How to Find the Best Paralegal Course Near Clanton Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Clanton AL and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic options are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students begin by looking for schools within driving distance of their Clanton residences. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program should be considered also. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your choice. But first, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both fill comparable job roles and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Clanton AL lawyers with a wide range of job duties, 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 may assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their everyday tasks might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complex and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Training 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 educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Clanton AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can take just six months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more expansive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Programs
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more popular and can be an excellent option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to Clanton AL students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the ideal choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can start the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Clanton AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant factors to consider as well, such as 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 choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Clanton AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically offered only for accredited programs.
What's the Program's Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call a few Clanton AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also offer a means for students to begin creating contacts within the Clanton AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws differ among states, it may be beneficial to choose a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the area where you desire to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to first consider those colleges that are within the Clanton AL region.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential received and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be available to help offset some of the cost, so be sure to check with the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Clanton AL. Naturally if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Clanton AL, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you select makes available that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making-up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Clanton Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the best paralegal studies training school is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Clanton home. Paralegal training programs are provided in various formats and lengths. Various 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 choice of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you decide to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to examine each school and make your final selection. And with the right training you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Clanton Alabama.