How to Choose the Best Paralegal Studies Course Near Enterprise Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Enterprise AL and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it's important that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students begin by looking for schools within commuting range of their Enterprise homes. Of those options, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school should be taken into account also. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your selection. But first, let's have 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
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill comparable job positions and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Enterprise AL lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their regular activities might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand 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 on their own.
Paralegal Training 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 academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Enterprise AL is by earning a certificate, which may involve just 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. When you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may want to proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some 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 school (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.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Certificates and Degrees
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more popular and can be an excellent option for those looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Enterprise AL students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an added advantage, online schools can in some cases 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 online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the right option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Enterprise AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other critical aspects to consider as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to 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 assistance and student loans are usually offered only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the School? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some Enterprise AL law offices 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 the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also provide a means for students to start establishing contacts within the Enterprise AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it may be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Enterprise AL region.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential received and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be available to help reduce some of the cost, so don't forget to talk to the school's financial aid department to see what is offered in Enterprise AL. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, some of these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Enterprise AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you choose offers that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making-up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Right Enterprise Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Enrolling in the right paralegal training school is an important first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Enterprise home. Paralegal education programs are made available in numerous formats and lengths. Several kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you decide to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to examine each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the right education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Enterprise Alabama.