How to Pick the Right Paralegal Certificate 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 gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic options are being offered, both on campus and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students start by searching for schools within traveling distance of their Hueytown residences. Of those choices, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be considered too. Later in this article we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your choice. But first, let's take 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
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold comparable job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Hueytown AL attorneys 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 practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties 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 practices where they work, but some of their daily tasks might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and stay 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 involved and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Hueytown AL is by earning a certificate, which can involve just 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in 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 choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice 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 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 program (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Courses
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more prevalent and can be an excellent alternative for those looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to Hueytown AL students who keep working while earning a degree. As an added advantage, online schools can in some cases be less costly 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 discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a respected agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Hueytown AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most 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 important factors to consider also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Hueytown AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often available only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school 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 determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Hueytown AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the Hueytown AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Because laws vary from one state to another, it may be advantageous to select a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to build relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the area where you desire to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to first consider those colleges that are within the Hueytown AL area.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be accessible to help offset part of the cost, so be sure to check with the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Hueytown AL. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Hueytown AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you select provides that option. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making-up missed classes due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Best Hueytown Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the right paralegal studies training program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Hueytown home. Paralegal education programs are offered in numerous formats and lengths. Different types of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you choose to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to assess each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal education you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Hueytown Alabama.