How to Pick the Best Paralegal Studies Course Near Clay Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Clay AL and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students start by trying to find schools within commuting range of their Clay homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you ought to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school must be considered too. Later on in this post we will review a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your selection. But first, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill the same job roles and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Clay AL attorneys with a wide range of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the attorney's. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but some of their everyday tasks may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complex and very demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Clay AL is by earning a certificate, which can require as little as 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded 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 discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Classes
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more popular and may be a good alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Clay AL students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the ideal option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Schools
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Clay AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other crucial issues to research also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Clay AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Clay AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Keep 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 Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also offer a means for students to start establishing contacts within the Clay AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs 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 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? Because laws differ from one state to another, it may be a good idea to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to create relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the community where you choose to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to initially investigate those schools that are within the Clay AL region.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don't forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help reduce part of the expense, so don't forget to check with the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Clay AL. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these added expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Clay AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you select provides that option. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making-up classes missed because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Clay Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the best paralegal training school is a vital first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Clay home. Paralegal training programs are made available in many lengths and formats. Different kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you elect to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to examine each program and make your final decision. And with the appropriate training you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Clay Alabama.