How to Select the Right Paralegal School Near Millbrook Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Millbrook AL and start your journey that will result in a fulfilling career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you locate the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need 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 educational options are being offered, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students start by looking for schools within commuting range of their Millbrook homes. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school should be considered too. Later on in this post we will review a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your choice. But first, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill comparable job roles 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 category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Millbrook AL lawyers with a wide range of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is usually billed hourly as are the attorney's. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but some of their routine activities may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, 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 proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Millbrook AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can require as little as six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more extensive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. 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 can not only help increase your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Certificates and Degrees
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more common and can be an excellent alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Millbrook AL students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a respected organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the ideal choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Millbrook AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can compare 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 searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other important aspects to think about also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Millbrook AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Millbrook AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while attending school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Millbrook AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Because laws vary among states, it might be advantageous to select a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to create relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the area where you want to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to first look at those colleges that are within the Millbrook AL region.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential received and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be available to help reduce part of the expense, so be sure to talk to the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Millbrook AL. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, some of these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Millbrook AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you select provides that option. Last, find out what the procedure is for making-up missed classes because of work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Best Millbrook Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal studies certificate program is a crucial first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Millbrook residence. Paralegal academic programs are made available in many lengths and formats. Different types of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you elect to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to examine each program and make your final decision. And with the right training you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Millbrook Alabama.