How to Choose the Right Paralegal Course Near Homewood Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Homewood AL and begin your journey that will result in a satisfying profession in legal services. However, it's important that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students start by searching for schools within traveling distance of their Homewood homes. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program should be taken into consideration also. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your decision. But before we do, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both hold comparable job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Homewood AL attorneys with a wide range of job functions, such as 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 work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their day-to-day tasks may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Homewood AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can take just 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. Once you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected certifying organizations 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 program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Schools
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more popular and can be a good alternative for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to Homewood AL students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable agency, 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 degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Homewood AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other crucial factors to think about as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Homewood AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the School? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call a few Homewood AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Bear 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 offer students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to start developing contacts within the Homewood AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement 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 students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it may be a good idea to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to develop 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 area where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to first consider those schools that are within the Homewood AL area.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential received and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help minimize part of the cost, so make sure to check with the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Homewood AL. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Homewood AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you enroll in offers that option. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Right Homewood Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the right paralegal training school is an important first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Homewood home. Paralegal education programs are made available in numerous lengths and formats. Various kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But no matter how you elect to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to evaluate each program and make your final decision. And with the ideal training you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Homewood Alabama.