How to Enroll in the Right Paralegal Course Near Hueytown Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Hueytown AL and begin your journey that will lead to a satisfying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you find the right school so that you will get 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 choices are being offered, both at school and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students begin by searching for schools within driving range of their Hueytown homes. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you ought to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be considered too. Later on in this post we will review a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill the same job roles and functions, just 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 help Hueytown AL attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their day-to-day tasks might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be involved and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Hueytown AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve as little as six months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. Once you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some 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 address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Certificates and Degrees
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more prevalent and can be an excellent alternative for those 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 certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online programs can often be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a respected agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the ideal choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Hueytown AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important factors to research as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Hueytown AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some Hueytown AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also provide a means for students to begin creating contacts within the Hueytown AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary from state to state, it may be advantageous to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduation. Also, it will be important to develop relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the community where you desire to work. 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 need to first investigate those schools that are within the Hueytown AL region.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don't forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be obtainable to help reduce part of the expense, so be sure to talk to the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Hueytown AL. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these added costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Hueytown AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Last, find out what the procedure is for making-up missed classes due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Hueytown 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 discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Hueytown residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in various formats and lengths. Several kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you decide to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to review each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the right education you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Hueytown Alabama.