How to Enroll in the Best Paralegal Certificate Program Near Glencoe Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Glencoe AL and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you locate the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive 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 options are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students start by looking for schools within commuting range of their Glencoe residences. Of those options, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you need to take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school should be considered also. Later in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your decision. But first, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both fill the same job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Glencoe AL attorneys with a wide range of job functions, including 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 firm may help with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is usually billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their everyday activities can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys 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 involved and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
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 academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Glencoe AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may take as little as six months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. After you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and receive a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Programs
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more available and may be an excellent alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to Glencoe AL students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a reputable agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the right option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Glencoe AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other crucial factors to consider as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select should be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also get 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 get will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Glencoe AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the School's Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Glencoe AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the Glencoe AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it may be a good idea to select a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the community 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 may need to first look at those colleges that are within the Glencoe AL area.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to add 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 expense, so make sure to contact the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Glencoe AL. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these added expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely 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 certain that the school you enroll in offers that option. Finally, inquire what the procedure is for making-up classes missed because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Glencoe Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the right paralegal certificate school is a crucial first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Glencoe home. Paralegal education programs are provided in many lengths and formats. Several kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you decide to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your final decision. And with the right education you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Glencoe Alabama.