How to Choose the Best Paralegal Studies Training Program Near Daleville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Daleville AL and start your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you locate the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students begin by trying to find schools within traveling range of their Daleville homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you ought to take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program must be taken into account too. Later on in this article we will cover a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your choice. But before we do, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold the same job positions and functions, only 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 Daleville AL lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is usually billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their everyday tasks might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical duties more apropos 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, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Daleville AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may take just six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and can be earned at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. After you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might want to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Classes
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more popular and can be an excellent alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to Daleville AL students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a respected organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the right option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Schools
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Daleville AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other important factors to consider as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Daleville AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some Daleville AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Daleville AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ among states, it might be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially investigate those schools that are within the Daleville AL region.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help offset part of the expense, so be sure to talk to the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Daleville AL. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, some of these additional costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Daleville AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you select provides that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making-up missed classes due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Daleville Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the right legal assistant certificate program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Daleville home. Paralegal education programs are offered in many formats and lengths. Several types of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you choose to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to review each school and make your final selection. And with the appropriate training you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Daleville Alabama.