How to Find the Best Paralegal Program Near Lanett Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Lanett AL and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, 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 most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students start by trying to find schools within traveling range of their Lanett residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you need to consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be taken into consideration as well. Later on in this post we will review a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your selection. But first, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold comparable job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Lanett AL attorneys with a diverse array 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 legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their regular tasks may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching related cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees 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 academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a paralegal in Lanett AL is by earning a certificate, which may require just 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more extensive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might want to continue 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 career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Courses
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more prevalent and may be an excellent alternative for individuals 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 obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online schools can often be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the ideal choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered 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 especially true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other crucial issues to research as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive 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 have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Lanett AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while attending school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the Lanett AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large 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? Because laws differ from state to state, it may be beneficial to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the area where you wish to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to first look at those schools that are within the Lanett AL region.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don't forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be obtainable to help offset some of the expense, so be sure to check with the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Lanett AL. Naturally if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Lanett AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in offers that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Best Lanett Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the best paralegal studies certificate school is an important first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Lanett residence. Paralegal academic programs are provided in various formats and lengths. Several kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you decide to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to examine each program and make your final decision. And with the appropriate training you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Lanett Alabama.