How to Select the Right Paralegal Studies Course 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 career in legal services. However, it's essential that you find the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely understand, 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. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students start by trying to find schools within commuting distance of their Hueytown residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program should be taken into consideration also. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your choice. But first, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold the same job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Hueytown AL attorneys with a wide range of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their routine activities might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative tasks 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 preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to start your career as a paralegal in Hueytown AL is by earning a certificate, which can involve as little as 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more expansive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. Once you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded certifying organizations 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Classes
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more common and may be an excellent option for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to Hueytown AL students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online programs can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a respected organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the ideal option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Hueytown AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other critical aspects to research also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over several 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 choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, 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 are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often available only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm 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 which schools they suggest. Remember that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while still in school. They can also present a means for students to start establishing contacts within the Hueytown AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Since laws vary from state to state, it might be beneficial to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially consider those schools that are within the Hueytown AL area.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be accessible to help minimize some of the cost, so don't forget to consult with the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Hueytown AL. Naturally if you choose to attend an online school, some of these added expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just 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 choose offers that option. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making-up missed classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Hueytown Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the ideal paralegal studies training program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Hueytown residence. Paralegal academic programs are made available in numerous lengths and formats. Various types of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, 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 profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you elect to obtain 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 final selection. And with the appropriate training you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Hueytown Alabama.