How to Enroll in the Best Paralegal Studies Course Near Lanett Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Lanett AL and start your journey that will lead to a fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you locate the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students start by looking for schools within traveling range of their Lanett homes. Of those choices, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be taken into consideration too. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both fill comparable job positions and functions, only 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 help Lanett AL attorneys with a wide range of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their routine tasks can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and very demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative functions 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, lawyers are able to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Lanett AL is by earning a certificate, which can require as little as 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. When you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected 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 discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Schools
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more available and may be an excellent alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Lanett AL students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online programs can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a respected agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the ideal choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking 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 so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other critical factors to think about as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Lanett AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the School? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking 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 some Lanett AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while still in school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Lanett AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ from one state to another, it may be advantageous to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the neighboring 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 attend classes at a community college, many 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 Lanett AL region.
What is the Total Cost? 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 training. Don't forget to include 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 expense, so make sure to talk to 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 supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Lanett AL, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you enroll in offers that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making-up missed classes because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Lanett Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the right legal assistant certificate school is an important first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Lanett home. Paralegal education programs are made available in many lengths and formats. Several types of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you choose to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to evaluate each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate training you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Lanett Alabama.