How to Choose the Right Paralegal Course Near Daphne Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Daphne AL and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. However, it's crucial that you find the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students begin by trying to find schools within traveling range of their Daphne homes. 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 factors you need to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school should be taken into account as well. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your choice. But first, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill comparable job positions 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 classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Daphne AL attorneys with a diverse array of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their routine tasks may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching related cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complex and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Daphne AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can require as little as 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. When you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might want to continue and obtain 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 as well. A few of the highly respected 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 discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Certificates and Degrees
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more prevalent and can be a good alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to Daphne AL students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can often be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the ideal option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Daphne AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to find out 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 begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other crucial factors to consider also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at 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 ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program 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 obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Daphne AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call a few Daphne AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while attending school. They can also present a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Daphne AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws differ from one state to another, it might be beneficial to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the community where you want to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially look at those colleges that are within the Daphne AL region.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential earned and the length of training provided. However, 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 may be obtainable to help minimize some of the cost, so make sure to talk to the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Daphne AL. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, some of these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Daphne AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Right Daphne Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the ideal paralegal studies certificate program is a crucial first step toward 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 privacy and comfort of your Daphne home. Paralegal training programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Different types of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you elect to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to assess each school and make your final decision. And with the ideal education you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Daphne Alabama.