How to Enroll in the Right Paralegal Training Program Near Hartselle Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Hartselle AL and start your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you locate the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic options are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students begin by trying to find schools within traveling range of their Hartselle residences. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program ought to be considered also. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your selection. But first, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold the same job roles and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Hartselle AL attorneys with a wide variety of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their everyday tasks might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Hartselle AL is by earning a certificate, which may require just six months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some 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 program (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Schools
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more popular and may be a good alternative for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to Hartselle AL students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online classes can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the ideal option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Schools
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Hartselle AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other crucial issues to research also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a recognized 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 online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Hartselle AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically available only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some Hartselle AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while attending school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Hartselle AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are evaluating provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws differ among states, it may be advantageous to choose a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the local 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 work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially consider those schools that are within the Hartselle AL area.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential received and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don't forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be available to help offset part of the expense, so don't forget to contact the school's financial aid department to see what is offered in Hartselle AL. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Hartselle AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you enroll in offers that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making up classes missed because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Best Hartselle Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the best paralegal training program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Hartselle home. Paralegal education programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Various types of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you decide to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to examine each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Hartselle Alabama.