How to Select the Right Paralegal Studies Training Program Near East Florence Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near East Florence AL and begin your journey that will result in a satisfying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you locate the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably 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 at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students begin by trying to find schools within driving distance of their East Florence homes. Of those options, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you must take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school must be considered too. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your selection. But first, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both fill the same job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help East Florence AL lawyers with a wide variety of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is typically billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but some of their day-to-day tasks might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be involved and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually 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 means to begin your career as a legal assistant in East Florence AL is by earning a certificate, which may involve as little as six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. Once you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. 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 cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Certificates and Degrees
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more common and may be an excellent option for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to East Florence AL students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the right option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the East Florence AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important factors to research as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many East Florence AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the Program's Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some East Florence AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the East Florence AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial 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 success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Because laws differ among states, it may be beneficial to select a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the community where you desire to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially investigate those schools that are within the East Florence AL region.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don't forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be available to help minimize part of the cost, so make sure to consult with the school's financial aid department to see what is offered in East Florence AL. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near East Florence AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in offers that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making-up missed classes because of work, illness or family obligations.
Enroll in the Best East Florence Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the ideal legal assistant training program is a vital first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your East Florence home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in numerous formats and lengths. Various types of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you choose to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to examine each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the right education you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in East Florence Alabama.