How to Choose the Right Paralegal School 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 rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students begin by trying to find schools within commuting distance of their Daleville homes. Of those options, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program should be considered as well. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold comparable job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Daleville AL attorneys with a diverse array of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally 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 code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day tasks can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and quite demanding. 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 administrative or clerical tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Daleville AL is by earning a certificate, which may require just 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and can be earned at many community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to proceed and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your job 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Classes
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more prevalent and can be a good alternative for those looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Daleville AL students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the right option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Daleville AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other critical aspects to research as well, for instance 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 researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Daleville AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually available only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Learn 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 field with no previous experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Daleville AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also offer a means for students to start developing contacts within the Daleville AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial 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 Located? Considering that laws vary among states, it might be a good idea to choose a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. Also, it will be important to establish relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the community where you wish to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to first consider those schools that are within the Daleville AL region.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential received and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don't forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be available to help reduce part of the expense, so make sure to check with the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Daleville AL. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Daleville AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you enroll in provides that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making up missed classes because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Daleville Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the right legal assistant certificate school is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Daleville home. Paralegal training programs are provided in numerous formats and lengths. Various types of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you choose to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to assess each school and make your final selection. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Daleville Alabama.