How to Find the Best Paralegal School Near Midfield Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Midfield AL and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. However, it's important that you find the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students begin by searching for schools within driving range of their Midfield residences. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school must be considered too. Later 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 decision. But first, let's have a look at 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 basically both fill comparable job positions and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Midfield 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 relevant to the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their everyday tasks can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative duties more suited 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 ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually 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 quickest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Midfield AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can require as little as 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. After you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some of the highly regarded 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Courses
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more available and can be an excellent option for those searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to Midfield AL students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online schools can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a respected agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional environment, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the ideal choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Midfield AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include 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 commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant issues to research as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Midfield AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically offered only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no previous experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some Midfield AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also provide a means for students to start developing contacts within the Midfield AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering 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 graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws vary among states, it might be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduation. Also, it will be important to establish 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 practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to first look at those schools that are within the Midfield AL area.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential received and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don't forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be accessible to help offset some of the expense, so don't forget to talk to the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Midfield AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online program, some of these added expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Midfield AL, make sure 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, inquire what the procedure is for making-up classes missed due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Midfield Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the ideal paralegal studies certificate school is an essential first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Midfield residence. Paralegal academic programs are offered in various formats and lengths. Several kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you elect to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to review each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate training you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Midfield Alabama.