How to Find the Best Paralegal Studies School Near Forestdale Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Forestdale AL and start your journey that will result in a satisfying career in legal services. However, it's crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely know, 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 so many options to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students begin by looking for schools within commuting range of their Forestdale residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school should be taken into consideration too. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your choice. But before we do, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both fill comparable job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Forestdale AL lawyers with a wide range of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their routine activities may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complex and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal counsel and advice 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. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education 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 educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a paralegal in Forestdale AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve just six months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more expansive education and may be earned at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. After you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Training
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more prevalent and can be an excellent option for students looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to Forestdale AL students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the right option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Forestdale AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant issues to think about 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 schools you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select should be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Forestdale AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the School's Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some Forestdale AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to start developing contacts within the Forestdale AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it may be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduating. In addition, it will be important to develop relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to first look at those schools that are within the Forestdale AL region.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don't forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help offset some of the cost, so make sure to consult with the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Forestdale AL. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, some of these additional expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while obtaining their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Forestdale AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you choose makes available that option. Last, find out what the procedure is for making up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Forestdale Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal degree school is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Forestdale home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in many formats and lengths. Various types of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you choose to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your final selection. And with the appropriate training you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Forestdale Alabama.