How to Select the Right Paralegal Studies Program Near Harvest Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Harvest AL and start your journey that will result in a satisfying profession in legal services. However, it's crucial that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students start by trying to find schools within commuting range of their Harvest homes. Of those choices, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you need to consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program must be taken into account also. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your decision. But before we do, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational options 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 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 classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Harvest AL attorneys with a wide range of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but some of their regular tasks might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be involved and very demanding. 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 administrative or clerical tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Harvest AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve as little as six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. Once you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected certifying agencies 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 school (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 legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Certificates and Degrees
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more available and can be a good alternative for those looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to Harvest AL students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online schools can often 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 internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the right choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Harvest AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many potential 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 critical aspects to consider as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Harvest AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the Program's Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no previous experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some Harvest AL law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even when 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 provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Harvest AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws differ among states, it may be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduation. In addition, it will be important to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to initially look at those colleges that are within the Harvest AL area.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. However, 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 also. Financial assistance might be available to help minimize part of the expense, so make sure to consult with the school's financial aid department to see what is offered in Harvest AL. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these added expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while receiving their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Harvest AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you select offers that option. Finally, find out what the process is for making up classes missed due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Harvest Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the right legal assistant training school is an essential first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Harvest home. Paralegal training programs are provided in various lengths and formats. Several kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you elect to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to review each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Harvest Alabama.