How to Select the Best Paralegal Studies Degree Program Near Demopolis Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Demopolis AL and start your journey that will result in a fulfilling profession in legal services. However, it's essential that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students begin by looking for schools within traveling range of their Demopolis homes. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you must take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school need to be taken into consideration as well. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your selection. But first, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold the same job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Demopolis AL attorneys with a wide range of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is typically billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their everyday tasks may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Demopolis AL is by earning a certificate, which may involve as little as six months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. When you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and earn a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded 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 important first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Classes
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more prevalent and may be an excellent option for those searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to Demopolis AL students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online programs can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a reputable organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the right choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Demopolis AL area, in addition to vocational and trade 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 as well. If you are like most potential students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant issues 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 programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Demopolis AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school 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 rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some Demopolis AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also offer a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Demopolis AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Since laws differ from one state to another, it might be a good idea to choose a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to first investigate those schools that are within the Demopolis AL area.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be accessible to help offset some of the cost, so don't forget to contact the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Demopolis AL. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online school, some of these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Demopolis AL, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in offers that option. Finally, inquire what the procedure is for making up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Demopolis Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal studies degree school is an important first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Demopolis residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Different types of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including community 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. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you decide to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to evaluate each program and make your final decision. And with the right training you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Demopolis Alabama.