How to Enroll in the Right Paralegal Studies Training Program Near Greenville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Greenville AL and begin your journey that will lead to a satisfying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you find the right school so that you will get 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 academic options are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students begin by trying to find schools within commuting range of their Greenville homes. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school should be taken into consideration as well. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your choice. But before we do, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold the same job positions and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Greenville AL lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their everyday activities may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be involved and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Greenville AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve as little as 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for 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 comprehensive 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 receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some of the highly regarded certifying organizations 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 school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Training
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more available and can be a good option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to Greenville AL students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal environment, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the ideal choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Greenville AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant aspects to think about also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Greenville AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually offered only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the School? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call a few Greenville AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the Greenville AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Since laws differ from one state to another, it might be advantageous to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of 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, most charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to initially consider those schools that are within the Greenville AL region.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be available to help minimize part of the expense, so be sure to talk to the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Greenville AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these additional costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Greenville AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you choose provides that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making up classes missed because of work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Right Greenville Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the right legal assistant certificate program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Greenville residence. Paralegal academic programs are made available in numerous formats and lengths. Different types of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced 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 fascinating profession. But no matter how you decide to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to assess each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate education you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Greenville Alabama.