How to Pick the Best Paralegal Training Program Near Hoover Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Hoover AL and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it's crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students begin by searching for schools within commuting range of their Hoover residences. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you must take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program ought to be taken into account also. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your choice. But before we do, 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.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both fill comparable job positions and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Hoover 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 functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their everyday activities might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be involved 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 proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Hoover AL is by earning a certificate, which can involve just six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more extensive education and may be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. Once you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase 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 school (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Classes
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more popular and may be an excellent alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to Hoover AL students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address 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 sure that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the ideal choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Hoover AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant issues to research as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Hoover AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually offered only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine 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 graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also offer a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Hoover AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Since laws vary from state to state, it might be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the community where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Hoover AL region.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential earned and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be accessible to help offset part of the expense, so make sure to talk to the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Hoover AL. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, some of these added costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Hoover AL, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select offers that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making-up classes missed due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Hoover Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the best paralegal certificate school is an essential first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Hoover residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in numerous formats and lengths. Various kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you choose to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to evaluate each school and make your final decision. And with the ideal education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Hoover Alabama.