How to Select the Best Paralegal Studies Course Near Greenville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Greenville AL and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students start by looking for schools within traveling distance of their Greenville residences. Of those options, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be taken into account as well. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your choice. But first, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill comparable 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 separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Greenville AL lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but some of their day-to-day activities might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be involved and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, 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 opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career as a paralegal in Greenville AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve as little as 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. Once you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected 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 program (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Classes
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more prevalent and can be a good option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to Greenville AL students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the right option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Greenville AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most prospective 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 consider also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose should 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 learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Greenville AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often available only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Greenville AL law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating 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 Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the Greenville AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Because laws differ among states, it might be beneficial to select a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to initially consider those schools that are within the Greenville AL area.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential earned and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don't forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be available to help offset part of the expense, so make sure to contact the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Greenville AL. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, some of these added costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Greenville AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you select provides that option. Finally, inquire what the procedure is for making up missed classes because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Greenville Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the right paralegal certificate school is a vital first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Greenville residence. Paralegal academic programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Several kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you elect to receive your education 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 final decision. And with the appropriate training you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Greenville Alabama.