How to Enroll in the Right Paralegal Program Near Hueytown Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Hueytown AL and start your journey that will result in a fulfilling profession in legal services. However, it's crucial that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is among 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 alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students start by searching for schools within traveling distance of their Hueytown homes. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you ought to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program should be taken into consideration too. Later in this article we will review a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill the same job positions and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Hueytown AL attorneys with a diverse array of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their regular tasks might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a legal assistant in Hueytown AL is by earning a certificate, which may take just six months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. After you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might want to proceed and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some of the highly regarded 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Programs
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more prevalent and may be a good alternative for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to Hueytown AL students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Hueytown AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important aspects to think about also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a reputable 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 learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Hueytown AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically available only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the School? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some Hueytown AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Keep 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 offer students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also present a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the Hueytown AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Because laws differ among states, it may be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be important to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to first consider those colleges that are within the Hueytown AL region.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be accessible to help reduce some of the expense, so be sure to consult with the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Hueytown AL. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, some of these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Hueytown AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you enroll in makes available that option. Last, ask what the process is for making-up missed classes because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Hueytown Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the right paralegal studies training program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Hueytown residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Several kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you choose to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to assess each school and make your final selection. And with the ideal training you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Hueytown Alabama.