How to Find the Best Paralegal Studies School 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 profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you locate the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic choices are being offered, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students begin by looking for schools within driving distance of their Daphne homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program ought to be taken into account too. Later on in this post we will review a list of concerns that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your decision. But first, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold the same job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Daphne AL attorneys with a wide range of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but some of their day-to-day activities can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Daphne AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve as little as six months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more extensive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. After you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and earn a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Training
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more prevalent and may be a good option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Daphne AL students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the right choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Daphne AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant factors to consider also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, 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 education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Daphne AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the School? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Daphne AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Bear 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 School Offer Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Daphne AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering have job placement 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 students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws differ from state to state, it may be a good idea to select a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the community where you desire to work. 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 may wish to initially consider those schools that are within the Daphne AL area.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be accessible to help reduce part of the expense, so be sure to check with the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Daphne AL. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, some of these added expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while receiving their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Daphne AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you choose provides that option. Finally, inquire what the procedure is for making up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Right Daphne Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the right paralegal certificate school is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Daphne residence. Paralegal training programs are offered in many formats and lengths. Various types of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you choose to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your final selection. And with the appropriate education you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Daphne Alabama.