How to Select the Right Paralegal Studies Certificate Program Near Daphne Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Daphne AL and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. However, it's important that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students start by looking for schools within commuting range of their Daphne residences. Of those choices, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program ought to be taken into account as well. Later on in this article we will review a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your selection. But first, let's have 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
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both hold comparable job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Daphne AL attorneys with a wide range of job duties, including 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 are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but some of their day-to-day tasks can 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 additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated 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 action. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative tasks more applicable 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, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees 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 educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to start your career as a paralegal in Daphne AL is by earning a certificate, which can require just 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more comprehensive 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 available also. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few 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 program (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Certificates and Degrees
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more common and may be a good alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to Daphne AL students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet 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 program and school you are looking into are accredited by a respected agency, 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 could be the ideal choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can start the process of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Daphne AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant aspects to think about also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Daphne AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Daphne AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also offer a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Daphne AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary from one state to another, it might be a good idea to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially consider those colleges that are within the Daphne AL area.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be accessible to help offset part of the cost, so make sure to consult with the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Daphne AL. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, some of these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Daphne AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you select offers that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making-up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Daphne Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the right paralegal studies training program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Daphne home. Paralegal education programs are provided in many lengths and formats. Several kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you elect 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 school and make your final selection. And with the right training you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Daphne Alabama.