How to Choose the Best Paralegal Studies Program 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 satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you find the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students begin by searching for schools within traveling 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 picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be considered also. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let's have a look at exactly 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 essentially both hold comparable job roles and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Lincoln AL attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their regular activities may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and stay 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 complicated and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical tasks more applicable 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 have the ability to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, 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 prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Lincoln AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can require as little as six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. Once you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected 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 cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Schools
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more popular and may be a good option for those searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to Lincoln AL students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Schools
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Lincoln AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other critical factors to think about also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick need to be accredited by a highly regarded 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 online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Lincoln AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Lincoln AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while still in school. They can also offer a means for students to begin creating contacts within the Lincoln AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it may be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to first look at those colleges that are within the Lincoln AL area.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be obtainable to help reduce some of the cost, so make sure to check with 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 added costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Lincoln AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select offers that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making-up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Best Lincoln Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the ideal legal assistant degree school is an important 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 on-campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Lincoln residence. Paralegal academic programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Various types of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, 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 impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you choose to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your final selection. And with the right training you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Lincoln Alabama.