How to Find the Right Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program Near East Florence Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near East Florence AL and start your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you locate the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational options are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students start by searching for schools within traveling range of their East Florence residences. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program should be taken into account also. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your selection. But first, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold comparable 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 separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist East Florence AL attorneys with a wide range of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their day-to-day activities can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to start your career as a paralegal in East Florence AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can require just six months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might choose to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. 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 school (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Programs
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more available and may be an excellent alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to East Florence AL students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online schools can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training 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 respected organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the ideal option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the East Florence AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant aspects to research as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching 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 choose should be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous East Florence AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no previous experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, 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 several East Florence AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while still in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the East Florence AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Because laws differ among states, it might be beneficial to select a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the area where you desire to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to first investigate those schools that are within the East Florence AL region.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price based 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 include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be available to help reduce part of the expense, so don't forget to check with the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in East Florence AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, some of these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near East Florence AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you choose provides that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making-up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right East Florence Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the ideal legal assistant degree school is an essential first step to guarantee 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 East Florence residence. Paralegal academic programs are provided in various lengths and formats. Different kinds of public and private institutions offer 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 pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you decide to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to examine each program and make your final selection. And with the ideal education you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in East Florence Alabama.