How to Pick the Right Paralegal Studies Certificate Program Near Daleville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Daleville AL and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. However, it's crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic choices are becoming available, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students start by looking for schools within driving distance of their Daleville residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you must take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program must be considered also. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both fill comparable job roles and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Daleville AL attorneys with a wide variety of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their everyday tasks can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role 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 paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a paralegal in Daleville AL is by earning a certificate, which may require as little as six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more expansive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 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 programs have become more popular and may be an excellent alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to Daleville AL students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online schools can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a respected organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the ideal option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Daleville AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other critical issues to think about also, 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 researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous 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 usually accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you pick 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 quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Daleville AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the Daleville AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary among states, it may be advantageous to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to build relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to first consider those colleges that are within the Daleville AL region.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential received and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be available to help offset some of the cost, so don't forget 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 school, some of these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Daleville AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you enroll in provides that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making-up missed classes because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Daleville Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the best paralegal studies training program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Daleville residence. Paralegal academic programs are made available in many lengths and formats. Several kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you decide to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to evaluate each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Daleville Alabama.