How to Select the Right Paralegal Studies Certificate Program Near Hoover Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Hoover AL and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you locate the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely know, 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. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students begin by searching for schools within driving distance of their Hoover homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be taken into consideration too. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your choice. But first, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both hold the same job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Hoover AL lawyers with a wide range of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions 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 trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their routine activities can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and very demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Hoover AL is by earning a certificate, which can involve just six months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and may be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. After you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and earn a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected certifying organizations 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Schools
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more available and may be an excellent option for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to Hoover AL students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online classes can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet 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 caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a reputable organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the right option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Hoover AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial factors to consider as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Hoover AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often available only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no previous experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Hoover 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 could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Hoover AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Because laws vary from state to state, it might be a good idea to choose a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduation. Also, it will be important to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain 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 live outside of their districts. So you may want to initially investigate those schools that are within the Hoover AL region.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. 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 also. Financial aid may be available to help reduce some of the cost, so make sure to consult with the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Hoover AL. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these additional costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Hoover AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you choose offers that option. Finally, find out what the process is for making-up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Hoover Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Enrolling in the best paralegal training program is an important first step to guarantee 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 attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Hoover home. Paralegal training programs are made available in numerous lengths and formats. Different kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you decide to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to assess each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the right education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Hoover Alabama.