How to Pick the Best Paralegal Studies Course Near Enterprise Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Enterprise AL and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. However, it's essential that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students begin by trying to find schools within driving distance of their Enterprise homes. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school need to be considered as well. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your choice. But first, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold the same job positions and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Enterprise AL attorneys with a wide range of job functions, including 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 are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but some of their daily tasks might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. 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 Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Enterprise AL is by earning a certificate, which may require just 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. 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 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 guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Schools
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more prevalent and can be a good option for students searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to Enterprise AL students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can often be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a respected organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the right option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can start the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Enterprise AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. 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 discussed, there are other significant factors to consider as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a respected 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 education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Enterprise AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent 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 several Enterprise AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the Enterprise AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement 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 substantiates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Because laws differ among states, it might be advantageous to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the area 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 may need to initially consider those colleges that are within the Enterprise AL area.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be available to help reduce some of the cost, so be sure to consult with the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Enterprise AL. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, some of these added expenses, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Enterprise AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you enroll in makes available that option. Last, find out what the procedure is for making up missed classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Enterprise Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Enrolling in the right legal assistant certificate program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Enterprise home. Paralegal academic programs are made available in numerous lengths and formats. Different types of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, 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 profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you choose to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to evaluate each school and make your final selection. And with the appropriate training you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Enterprise Alabama.