How to Pick the Right Paralegal Studies Training Program Near Lincoln Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Lincoln AL and start your journey that will lead to a fulfilling career in legal services. However, it's important that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students start by looking for schools within driving distance of their Lincoln homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you need to take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program must be taken into account too. Later in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your choice. But first, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill the same job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Lincoln AL lawyers with a wide range of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but some of their routine activities might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys prepare 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 complex and very challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Lincoln AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may require just six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more expansive education and may be earned at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. Once you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and obtain a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Classes
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more common and can be a good alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to Lincoln AL students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can often be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a respected organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and conventional setting, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the right option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Lincoln AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant issues to research as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Lincoln AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the School? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some Lincoln AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the Lincoln AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be difficult 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 sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it might be beneficial to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be important to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to first investigate those schools that are within the Lincoln AL area.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be available to help offset part of the cost, so make sure to talk to the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Lincoln AL. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online school, 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 must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Lincoln AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you choose offers that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making-up missed classes because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Lincoln Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the best paralegal studies certificate program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Lincoln home. Paralegal education programs are provided in various lengths and formats. Various types of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of 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 evaluate each program and make your final selection. And with the appropriate training you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Lincoln Alabama.