How to Choose the Right Paralegal Studies Program Near Daleville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Daleville AL and start your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it's essential that you locate the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students start by trying to find schools within traveling range of their Daleville homes. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school should be taken into account as well. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your decision. But first, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold comparable job roles and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Daleville AL attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their daily activities can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be involved and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Daleville AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can take just six months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. Once you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected 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 obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Schools
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more common and may be an excellent option for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to Daleville AL students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least 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 reviewing are accredited by a respected organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the right option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can start the process of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Daleville AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially 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 looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other significant aspects to consider as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation 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 effectively vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a reputable organization 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 distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Daleville AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking 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 contact some Daleville AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the Daleville AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Since laws differ among states, it may be beneficial to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the area where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to first consider those colleges that are within the Daleville AL region.
What is the Complete Cost? 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 cost for your education. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be accessible to help reduce some of the cost, so don't forget to contact the school's financial aid department to see what is offered in Daleville AL. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, some of these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while obtaining their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Daleville AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select provides that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making up missed classes due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Daleville Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the ideal paralegal training school is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered 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 Daleville home. Paralegal education programs are offered in many formats and lengths. Several kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But no matter how you decide to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to review each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate education you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Daleville Alabama.