How to Pick the Right Paralegal School Near Millbrook Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Millbrook AL and begin your journey that will result in a fulfilling career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational options are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students begin by searching for schools within driving distance of their Millbrook residences. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program must be taken into account as well. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your selection. But first, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold the same job roles and responsibilities, 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 diverse array of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, 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 transferring files to court. In private practices, 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 abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their everyday tasks can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and quite challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Millbrook AL is by earning a certificate, which can require as little as 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more expansive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. Once you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might want to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded certifying organizations 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Classes
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more common and can be a good option for those looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to Millbrook AL students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online classes can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a respected organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the right choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Millbrook AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most 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 consider as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Millbrook AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually offered only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the School? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call a few Millbrook AL law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the Millbrook AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary among states, it may be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the community where you wish to practice. 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 wish to first look at those colleges that are within the Millbrook AL area.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. However, 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 obtainable to help offset some of the cost, so be sure to contact the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Millbrook AL. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these added expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Millbrook AL, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you select offers that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making-up classes missed due to work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Right Millbrook Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the right legal assistant training program is an important first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Millbrook home. Paralegal education programs are provided in numerous formats and lengths. Several types of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence 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 opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you elect to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to review each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the right education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Millbrook Alabama.