How to Select the Right Paralegal Training Program Near Greenville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Greenville AL and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you find the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic options are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students begin by looking for schools within driving range of their Greenville homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program ought to be taken into consideration also. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your choice. But first, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill 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 paralegals and legal assistants help Greenville AL attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their daily activities may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Greenville AL is by earning a certificate, which can involve just six months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Courses
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more available and may be a good option for those looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to Greenville AL students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online schools can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the ideal choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Schools
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Greenville AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other critical aspects to think about also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Greenville AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often offered only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking 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 several Greenville AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the Greenville AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing offer internship programs, particularly 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 secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Since laws vary from one state to another, it may be advantageous to select a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to first consider those colleges that are within the Greenville AL area.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential received and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help reduce some of the cost, so don't forget to check with the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Greenville AL. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these added expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Greenville AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you choose offers that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Greenville Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the ideal legal assistant certificate school is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Greenville residence. Paralegal academic programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Several 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 school will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you decide to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to assess each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the right education you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Greenville Alabama.