How to Select the Best Paralegal Studies Training Program Near Midfield Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Midfield AL and start your journey that will result in a satisfying profession in legal services. However, it's crucial 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 more and more academic options are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students begin by searching for schools within commuting range of their Midfield residences. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school must be taken into consideration as well. Later in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your choice. But first, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold comparable job positions and functions, just 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 Midfield AL lawyers with a wide variety of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their regular activities can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys 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 involved and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs 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 educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to start your career as a paralegal in Midfield AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may take 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 expansive education and can be earned at many community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. After you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might want to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected certifying agencies in the field 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 discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Classes
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more common and can be a good option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to Midfield AL students who keep working while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the ideal option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Midfield AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other important 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 considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a respected organization 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 distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Midfield AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually offered only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Research 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 field with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Midfield AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also present a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the Midfield AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws differ from state to state, it may be a good idea to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to initially look at those colleges that are within the Midfield AL region.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be accessible to help minimize some of the expense, so be sure to contact the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Midfield AL. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, some of these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Midfield AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you select provides that option. Last, find out what the process is for making up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Right Midfield Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the best paralegal degree program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying 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 Midfield home. Paralegal training programs are offered in various formats and lengths. Different kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity 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 provided you will be able to evaluate each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the right training you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Midfield Alabama.