How to Find the Best Paralegal Studies Training Program Near Enterprise Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Enterprise AL and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you locate the best school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely understand, 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. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students begin by looking for schools within traveling distance of their Enterprise homes. Of those choices, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program should be considered too. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your choice. But first, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold comparable job positions and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Enterprise AL lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their everyday tasks might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and very demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger number 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. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Enterprise AL is by earning a certificate, which can take just six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected certifying agencies in the field 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 address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Training
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more common and may be an excellent option for those searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to Enterprise AL students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced 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 obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a respected agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Enterprise AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant factors to think about also, 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 investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Enterprise AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the School's Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Enterprise AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also present a means for students to start establishing contacts within the Enterprise AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? 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 help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Since laws differ from one state to another, it may be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to build relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the area where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to first investigate those schools that are within the Enterprise AL region.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help reduce part of the cost, so be sure to talk to the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Enterprise AL. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Enterprise AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in offers that option. Last, inquire what the process is for making-up classes missed because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Enterprise Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal certificate school is an important first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Enterprise residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in numerous formats and lengths. Various types of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you decide to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to examine each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal education you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Enterprise Alabama.