How to Choose the Best Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program 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 rewarding profession in legal services. However, it's important that you locate the ideal 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 more and more educational options are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students start by trying to find schools within commuting range of their Hueytown residences. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you ought to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program ought to be considered also. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your selection. But before we do, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold the same job roles and responsibilities, only 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 paralegals and legal assistants help Hueytown AL lawyers with a wide variety 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 firm might assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is typically billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their everyday tasks might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and quite demanding. On the other hand, 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 clerical or administrative tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, 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 requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a legal assistant in Hueytown AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can require as little as 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may want to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected certifying agencies 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Classes
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more available and can be a good option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Hueytown AL students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online programs can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a respected organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the right option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Hueytown AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other critical issues to consider as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program 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 school, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Hueytown AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically offered only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the School? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Hueytown AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the Hueytown AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Because laws vary among states, it might be advantageous to select a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be important to develop relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the area where you choose to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to first consider those schools that are within the Hueytown AL region.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost depending on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. However, 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 as well. Financial aid might be obtainable to help minimize part of the cost, so don't forget to consult with the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Hueytown AL. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these added expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Hueytown AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you choose provides that option. Finally, find out what the process is for making up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Hueytown Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the best paralegal training program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying 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 education programs are made available in various lengths and formats. Different types of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you choose to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate education you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Hueytown Alabama.