How to Find the Best Paralegal Studies Degree Program Near Forestdale Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Forestdale AL and start your journey that will result in a satisfying profession in legal services. However, it's essential that you find the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students start by searching for schools within traveling distance of their Forestdale homes. Of those choices, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school must be considered also. Later in this post we will cover a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both fill comparable job positions and responsibilities, just 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 assist Forestdale AL lawyers with a wide range of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney'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 stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their routine activities may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Training 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 educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Forestdale 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 provide a more expansive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected certifying organizations 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 advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Courses
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more common and may be an excellent option for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Forestdale AL students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training 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 study in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the right option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Forestdale AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other significant aspects to think about also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Training 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 school, it may also get 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 obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Forestdale AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often available only for accredited programs.
What's the School's Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no previous work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few Forestdale AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also provide a means for students to begin creating contacts within the Forestdale AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary from one state to another, it might be beneficial to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to initially look at those colleges that are within the Forestdale AL area.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help minimize part of the cost, so make sure to contact the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Forestdale AL. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these additional costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Forestdale AL, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you choose offers that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making-up missed classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Forestdale Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the best paralegal 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 option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Forestdale home. Paralegal training programs are provided in various formats and lengths. Different kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you elect to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to examine each school and make your final decision. And with the appropriate training you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Forestdale Alabama.