How to Choose the Best 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 career in legal services. However, it's important that you find the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive 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 educational options are being offered, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students start by searching for schools within driving distance of their Greenville residences. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school must be considered too. Later on in this post we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill comparable job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Greenville AL lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but some of their regular tasks can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually 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 quickest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Greenville AL is by earning a certificate, which can require just 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue and get a certification. Even though 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 regarded certifying agencies 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 cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Programs
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more prevalent and can be a good alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to Greenville AL students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, 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 quality. So check to make certain 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 attend classes in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the ideal option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Greenville AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to find out 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 also. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other significant factors to consider as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a highly regarded organization 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 online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Greenville AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the School? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few Greenville AL law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while attending school. They can also offer a means for students to start creating contacts within the Greenville AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ among states, it may be a good idea to select a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to create relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to initially consider those colleges that are within the Greenville AL region.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be accessible to help minimize some of the expense, so be sure to check with the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Greenville AL. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online school, some of these added expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Greenville AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you choose provides that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making up missed classes because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Greenville Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Enrolling in the best paralegal certificate program is an essential first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Greenville residence. Paralegal training programs are offered in various lengths and formats. Different types of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you elect to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to examine each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal education you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Greenville Alabama.