How to Find the Best Paralegal Studies Training Program Near Dixiana Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Dixiana AL and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you find 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 a growing number of academic alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students begin by searching for schools within commuting range of their Dixiana residences. Of those options, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you ought to consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school need to be taken into consideration also. Later on in this post we will review a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold the same job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Dixiana AL attorneys with a wide range of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is usually billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their everyday activities might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical functions more applicable 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 ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we discussed earlier, 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 requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career as a paralegal in Dixiana AL is by earning a certificate, which can require as little as 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Schools
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more available and may be a good alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to Dixiana AL students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal environment, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the ideal option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Dixiana AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to 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 prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other crucial aspects to consider as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at a few 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 Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a highly regarded 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 training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Dixiana AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically available only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some Dixiana AL law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also offer a means for students to start developing contacts within the Dixiana AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Because laws differ from one state to another, it may be a good idea to select a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to initially consider those colleges that are within the Dixiana AL region.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don't forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be available to help offset part of the expense, so don't forget to check with the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Dixiana AL. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Dixiana AL, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you choose offers that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Right Dixiana Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the ideal legal assistant certificate program is a vital first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Dixiana home. Paralegal academic programs are provided in numerous formats and lengths. Several kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you decide to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to review each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the right education you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Dixiana Alabama.