How to Find the Best Paralegal Course Near Lanett Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Lanett AL and start your journey that will result in a fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you find the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational choices are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students begin by looking for schools within commuting range of their Lanett residences. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program must be considered also. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your selection. But first, let's take a look at 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 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 belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Lanett AL attorneys with a wide range of job duties, 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 could assist with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their regular activities may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be involved and very challenging. 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 restricted to clerical or administrative functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a legal assistant in Lanett AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can take just six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. After you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to continue and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected 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 discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Programs
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more available and may be a good option for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to Lanett AL students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an added advantage, online schools can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the ideal option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can start the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Lanett AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many 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 think about also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Lanett AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the School? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some Lanett AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the Lanett AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are evaluating provide internship programs, specifically 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 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 programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Since 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 graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the area where you want to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially look at those colleges that are within the Lanett AL area.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be obtainable to help minimize part of the expense, so don't forget to contact the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Lanett AL. Of course if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Lanett AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you choose provides that option. Last, find out what the process is for making up classes missed because of work, illness or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Lanett Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the ideal paralegal studies certificate school is an important first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Lanett home. Paralegal training programs are made available in many formats and lengths. Different types of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you elect to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to examine each school and make your final decision. And with the right training you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Lanett Alabama.