How to Find the Right Paralegal Studies Program Near Harvest Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Harvest AL and begin your journey that will result in a fulfilling profession in legal services. However, it's important that you find the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students begin by searching for schools within driving range of their Harvest homes. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you must take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program must be taken into consideration too. Later on in this post we will review a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your choice. But first, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill comparable job positions and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Harvest AL lawyers with a wide range of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, 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 might assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and follow 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 everyday activities might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and very demanding. However, 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 limited to clerical or administrative duties more suited 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 preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a paralegal in Harvest AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve just 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more expansive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Classes
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more prevalent and may be an excellent alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to Harvest AL students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online schools can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the ideal option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Harvest AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant factors to think about as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching 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 recognized organization 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 distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Harvest 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 offered only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Harvest AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also provide a means for students to start establishing contacts within the Harvest AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large 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? Because laws differ from one state to another, it might be a good idea to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to first consider those schools that are within the Harvest AL area.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be accessible to help reduce part of the expense, so be sure to talk to the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Harvest AL. Naturally if you choose to attend an online school, some of these added costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Harvest AL, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you choose offers that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making-up missed classes due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Harvest Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the best paralegal studies training school is an essential first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Harvest residence. Paralegal academic programs are provided in numerous lengths and formats. Various types of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program 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 wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you decide 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 final decision. And with the right training you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Harvest Alabama.