How to Find the Right Paralegal Course Near Hoover Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Hoover AL and start your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you locate the right school so that you will get the comprehensive 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 a growing number of academic options are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students start by looking for schools within traveling distance of their Hoover homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school must be taken into consideration too. Later on in this post we will cover a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold the same job positions 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 category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Hoover AL attorneys with a wide variety of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but some of their everyday activities might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Education 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 job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Hoover AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve just six months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more expansive education and may be earned at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. After you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Classes
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more common and can be an excellent option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to Hoover AL students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the right option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Hoover 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 certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other critical aspects to think about as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Hoover AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Hoover AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the Hoover AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing 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 probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Because laws vary from state to state, it might be advantageous to select a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the area where you desire 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 may wish to initially investigate those schools that are within the Hoover AL area.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help minimize some of the cost, so don't forget to contact the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Hoover AL. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these added costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Hoover AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you choose offers that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making-up missed classes because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Right Hoover Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the best paralegal studies certificate 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 choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Hoover home. Paralegal education programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Different kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you elect to obtain 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 ultimate selection. And with the right education you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Hoover Alabama.