How to Find the Right Paralegal Degree Program Near Guntersville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Guntersville AL and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you locate the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require 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 choices are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students start by trying to find schools within driving range of their Guntersville residences. Of those options, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school need to be taken into consideration also. Later on in this post we will review a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your selection. But first, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both hold comparable job roles and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Guntersville AL lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but some of their everyday tasks can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be involved and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized 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 tasks 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 preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career as a paralegal in Guntersville AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve as little as 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more expansive education and can be earned at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. After you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Schools
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more prevalent and can be a good alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Guntersville AL students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school 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 structured and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the ideal choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Guntersville AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other important aspects to research as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Guntersville AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the School? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no previous work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Guntersville AL law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the Guntersville AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Because laws vary among states, it may be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be important to establish relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Guntersville AL area.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be accessible to help offset part of the expense, so be sure to talk to the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Guntersville AL. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these added expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while obtaining their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Guntersville AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select provides that option. Finally, find out what the process is for making-up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Guntersville Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Enrolling in the right paralegal studies training program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Guntersville home. Paralegal education programs are made available in various lengths and formats. Several kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you elect to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to evaluate each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal training you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Guntersville Alabama.