How to Choose the Right Paralegal Studies School Near Daphne Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Daphne AL and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students start by trying to find schools within traveling distance of their Daphne residences. Of those choices, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be taken into account as well. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your decision. But first, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both fill comparable job positions and responsibilities, just 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 assist Daphne AL lawyers with a wide range of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but some of their everyday activities might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a paralegal in Daphne AL is by earning a certificate, which can take just 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. Once you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few 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 discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Classes
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more prevalent and can be a good option for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to Daphne AL students who keep working while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online schools can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Daphne AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other critical issues to research as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Daphne AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the School? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Daphne AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while still in school. They can also offer a means for students to begin creating contacts within the Daphne AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication 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 Campus Located? Since laws differ from state to state, it may be a good idea to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the area where you desire to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to first look at those colleges that are within the Daphne AL region.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help minimize part of the cost, so don't forget to check with the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Daphne AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, some of these added costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Daphne AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you enroll in makes available that option. Finally, inquire what the procedure is for making-up classes missed due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Daphne Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the best paralegal degree school is a crucial first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed 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 residence. Paralegal academic programs are offered in numerous formats and lengths. Various kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you elect to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to assess each program and make your final selection. And with the right training you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Daphne Alabama.