How to Select the Right Paralegal School Near Enterprise Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Enterprise AL and start your journey that will result in a fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you find the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic options are being offered, both at school and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students start by looking for schools within driving range of their Enterprise homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program should be taken into account also. Later on in this article we will review a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your selection. But first, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part 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 different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Enterprise AL attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but some of their everyday tasks can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants 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 manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Enterprise AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve just 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. After you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some 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 program (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Schools
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more common and may be a good option for students looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to Enterprise AL students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the right option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can start the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many 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 evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. 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 previously covered, there are other important factors to research also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential 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 program. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the School's Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Enterprise AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while still in 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 reviewing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Because laws vary from one state to another, it might be a good idea to select a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to initially consider those schools that are within the Enterprise AL region.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be accessible to help reduce part of the cost, so don't forget to consult with the school's financial aid department to see what is offered in Enterprise AL. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, some of these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Enterprise 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 provides that option. Last, ask what the process is for making up classes missed due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Best Enterprise Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the ideal legal assistant degree school is an important first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Enterprise home. Paralegal academic programs are made available in many lengths and formats. Various types of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you choose to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your final decision. And with the appropriate training you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Enterprise Alabama.