How to Pick the Best Paralegal Studies Degree Program Near Daphne Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Daphne AL and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic options are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students start by looking for schools within commuting distance of their Daphne homes. Of those choices, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you need to consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program should be considered as well. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both fill comparable job positions and functions, just with different titles. However, 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 Daphne AL attorneys with a wide variety of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is usually billed hourly as are the attorney's. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their routine tasks may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical tasks 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, attorneys are able to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Daphne AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may take as little as six months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected certifying organizations in the field 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 discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Schools
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more popular and can be an excellent option for those looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Daphne AL students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online classes can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such things 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 the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the right choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Schools
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Daphne AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other significant factors to think about as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose should be accredited by a reputable 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 targets distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Daphne AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically available only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some Daphne AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the Daphne AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Since laws differ from one state to another, it may be beneficial to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduating. In addition, 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 practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to first investigate those colleges that are within the Daphne AL area.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be available to help minimize part of the cost, so don't forget to contact the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Daphne AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, some of these added costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Daphne AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you choose offers that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making-up classes missed due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Best Daphne Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the right paralegal certificate school is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Daphne home. Paralegal education programs are provided in various lengths and formats. Various types of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you choose to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to review each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the right education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Daphne Alabama.