How to Enroll in the Best Paralegal Course Near Lanett Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Lanett AL and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you find the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational choices are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students begin by trying to find schools within commuting distance of their Lanett residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school must be taken into account too. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your choice. But first, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both fill the same job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Lanett AL lawyers with a wide variety of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their daily tasks might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and very challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a paralegal in Lanett AL is by earning a certificate, which may take as little as six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few 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 advantages 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 Schools
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more prevalent and may be a good alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to Lanett AL students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online schools can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials 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 ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the right choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Schools
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can start the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs accessible at community and junior 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 compare each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other crucial issues to research as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future 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 school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically available only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as 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 Lanett AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also present a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Lanett 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 Help available? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ from state to state, it might be beneficial to select a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to create relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require 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 Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential received and the amount of training provided. Having said that, 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 as well. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help minimize part of the expense, so don't forget to talk to the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Lanett AL. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these additional expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Lanett AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you choose offers that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Lanett Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the best paralegal degree school is an important first step toward 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 participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Lanett home. Paralegal training programs are provided in numerous formats and lengths. Several types of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But no matter how you decide to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to examine each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the right education you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Lanett Alabama.