How to Choose the Best Paralegal Training Program Near Millbrook Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Millbrook AL and start your journey that will lead to a rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you locate the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic options are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students start by searching for schools within driving range of their Millbrook homes. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be considered also. Later on in this post we will cover a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold the same job roles and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Millbrook AL attorneys with a wide range of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their everyday activities can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees 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 academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career as a paralegal in Millbrook AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve as little as 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more expansive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded certifying organizations 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 program (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Classes
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more available and can be a good alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Millbrook AL students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online programs can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the right option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Programs
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Millbrook AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you include 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 discussed, there are other significant factors to think about also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can 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 receive will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Millbrook AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually offered only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some Millbrook AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the Millbrook AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools 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 substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary among states, it may be advantageous to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the community where you wish to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to initially look at those schools that are within the Millbrook AL area.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don't forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be accessible to help minimize part of the expense, so make sure to consult with the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Millbrook AL. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online program, some of these added costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Millbrook AL, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you select offers that option. Last, inquire what the protocol is for making up missed classes due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Millbrook Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the ideal paralegal studies degree program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Millbrook residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in various formats and lengths. Several kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program 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 programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you decide to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to examine each program and make your final selection. And with the right training you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Millbrook Alabama.