How to Find the Right Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program Near Glencoe Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Glencoe AL and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students begin by searching for schools within commuting distance of their Glencoe homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be considered as well. Later on in this article we will cover a list of questions that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your choice. But before we do, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold 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 category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Glencoe AL lawyers with a wide range of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the attorney's. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their regular tasks might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Glencoe AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can require just six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more extensive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. After you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may 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 increase your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected 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 school (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Courses
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more common and may be an excellent option for those looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to Glencoe AL students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate 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 educational options are offered, you can start the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Glencoe AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most 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 crucial issues to consider also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Glencoe AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, 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. Reviewing school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Glencoe AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Glencoe AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ among states, it might be a good idea to select a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduating. Also, it will be important to cultivate 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 wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Glencoe AL region.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be accessible to help reduce some of the expense, so be sure to check with the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Glencoe AL. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, some of these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Glencoe AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making up missed classes due to work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Right Glencoe Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the best paralegal studies certificate program is a crucial first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Glencoe home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in numerous formats and lengths. Various kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you decide to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal education you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Glencoe Alabama.