How to Choose the Best Paralegal Studies School Near Lincoln Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Lincoln AL and start your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you locate the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive 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 more and more academic options are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students begin by searching for schools within driving distance of their Lincoln residences. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school should be taken into consideration too. Later on in this post we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your decision. But first, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both fill comparable 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 classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Lincoln AL attorneys with a wide range of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their routine activities can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and very demanding. On the other hand, 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 clerical or administrative tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Training 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 prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Lincoln AL is by earning a certificate, which can take as little as six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and can be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. After you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might choose to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your employment 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 school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Schools
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more popular and may be a good option for those looking 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 degree. As an added advantage, online classes can often be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a respected organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the right option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Lincoln AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other crucial factors 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 programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Lincoln AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Lincoln AL law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while still in school. They can also present an avenue for students to start developing contacts within the Lincoln AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary among states, it might be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to first look at those schools that are within the Lincoln AL area.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don't forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help offset part of the cost, so be sure to contact the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Lincoln AL. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Lincoln 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. Last, ask what the protocol is for making up missed classes due to work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Best Lincoln Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the ideal paralegal studies degree school is an essential first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Lincoln residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in various lengths and formats. Various kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you elect to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to review each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal education you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Lincoln Alabama.