How to Find the Right Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program Near Enterprise Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Enterprise AL and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you find the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational choices are being offered, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students begin by looking for schools within driving range of their Enterprise residences. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be taken into account as well. Later on in this post we will review a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your decision. But before we do, 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 basically both hold the same job roles and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Enterprise AL lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is normally billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their everyday activities may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be involved 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 they are not limited 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, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically 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 means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Enterprise AL is by earning a certificate, which may involve as little as six months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more expansive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help establish 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 school (we will address 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 legal assistant or a paralegal.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Certificates and Degrees
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more prevalent and may be an excellent alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to Enterprise AL students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online schools can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the ideal choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can start the undertaking 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 know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other critical factors to think about also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Enterprise AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no previous experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, including those provided 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 be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also present a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Enterprise AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary among states, it may be beneficial to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the area where you choose to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially look at those schools that are within the Enterprise AL area.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential earned and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don't forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be accessible to help minimize some of the expense, so be sure to talk to the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Enterprise AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online program, some of these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal 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 certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you choose makes available that option. Last, find out what the process is for making up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Right Enterprise Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the right paralegal studies training program is an essential first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Enterprise residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in numerous formats and lengths. Different kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you choose to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to examine each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate education you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Enterprise Alabama.