How to Pick the Right Paralegal Studies School Near Lanett Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Lanett AL and start your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it's important that you locate the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic choices are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students begin by trying to find schools within commuting distance of their Lanett residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be taken into consideration as well. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your selection. But first, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both fill the same job roles and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Lanett AL lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their daily activities might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and keep 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 involved and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Lanett AL is by earning a certificate, which can take as little as six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. When you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Classes
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more popular and can be a good option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to Lanett AL students who keep working while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal environment, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the ideal option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can start the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Lanett AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other significant issues to consider also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose should be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Lanett AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically offered only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the School? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no previous experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, 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 a few Lanett AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also present a means for students to start developing contacts within the Lanett AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent 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 in demand.
Where is the School Located? Because laws vary from one state to another, it might be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduation. In addition, it will be important to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you want to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to first investigate those colleges that are within the Lanett AL area.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential received and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be accessible to help reduce part of the cost, so make sure to contact the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Lanett AL. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these added expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while obtaining their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Lanett AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you choose makes available that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making up classes missed because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Lanett Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the right paralegal training school is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Lanett residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Different types of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you choose to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to review each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal education you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Lanett Alabama.