How to Choose the Best Paralegal Degree Program Near Glencoe Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Glencoe AL and start your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it's crucial that you locate the best school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely 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. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students start by looking for schools within driving range of their Glencoe homes. Of those choices, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program should be taken into account too. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your selection. But first, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold comparable job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Glencoe AL lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. 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 might help with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but some of their routine activities may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical tasks more apropos 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 preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to start your career as a legal assistant in Glencoe AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve just 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more expansive education and may be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. After you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few 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 school (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Courses
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more available and may be an excellent alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Glencoe AL students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in greater 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 school and program you are looking into are accredited by a reputable agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and conventional environment, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the right choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Glencoe AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most 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 think about also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick need to be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Glencoe AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically offered only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations 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 quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Glencoe AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Glencoe AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent 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 School's Location? Because laws vary from one state to another, it may be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduation. In addition, it will be important to establish relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to initially look at those colleges that are within the Glencoe AL area.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help offset part of the expense, so don't forget to check with the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Glencoe AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online program, some of these additional costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Glencoe AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you enroll in provides that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making-up classes missed due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Glencoe Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the best paralegal training school is an essential first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Glencoe home. Paralegal academic programs are made available in numerous lengths and formats. Various kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you elect to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to review each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal education you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Glencoe Alabama.