How to Pick the Right Paralegal Course Near Clay Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Clay AL and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational options are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students start by trying to find schools within traveling range of their Clay homes. Of those options, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school must be considered as well. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your decision. But first, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold the same job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Clay AL attorneys with a diverse array of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. 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 normally billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their routine tasks might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Clay AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve just 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more extensive education and may be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. Once you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Programs
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more popular and can be an excellent option for students searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to Clay AL students who keep working while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can often be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education 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 respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the ideal choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Clay AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must find out 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 the majority of potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant aspects to research as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Clay AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually available only for accredited programs.
What's the School's Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession 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 a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Clay AL law practices 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 may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while attending school. They can also present an avenue for students to start creating contacts within the Clay AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Because laws differ from state to state, it might be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially consider those colleges that are within the Clay AL region.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential received and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be obtainable to help offset some of the cost, so make sure to check with the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Clay AL. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these additional costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Clay AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you choose provides that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Right Clay Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the ideal paralegal studies degree program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Clay home. Paralegal training programs are offered in various lengths and formats. Different types of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your prospects 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 opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you decide to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to review each program and make your final selection. And with the appropriate training you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Clay Alabama.