How to Enroll in the Best Paralegal Course Near Greenville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Greenville AL and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. However, it's essential that you locate the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational options are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students start by searching for schools within commuting distance of their Greenville residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school should be considered as well. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine 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 instructional choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill the same job roles and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Greenville AL lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their daily activities can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to start your career as a legal assistant in Greenville AL is by earning a certificate, which may take as little as 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. After you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will address the advantages 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.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Courses
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more popular and can be a good option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Greenville AL students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online programs can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a respected organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the right choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Greenville AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important issues to research also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Greenville AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often available only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few Greenville AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while attending school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the Greenville AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job placement 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 graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ from one state to another, it may be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to initially investigate those schools that are within the Greenville AL area.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in cost depending on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be accessible to help offset some of the cost, so make sure to consult with the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Greenville AL. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these added expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. 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, make sure that the school you choose offers that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making-up missed classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Greenville Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the best paralegal degree program is a vital first step toward 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 comfort and privacy of your Greenville residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in various lengths and formats. Various kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you decide to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to evaluate each school and make your final selection. And with the right education you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Greenville Alabama.