How to Choose the Right Paralegal Degree Program Near Millbrook Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Millbrook AL and start your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it's important that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students begin by looking for schools within traveling distance of their Millbrook residences. Of those options, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be considered as well. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your choice. But first, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold comparable job roles and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Millbrook AL lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is typically billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their routine tasks can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be involved and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Millbrook AL is by earning a certificate, which can take as little as 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. Once you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected certifying agencies 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Schools
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more popular and may be a good option for those looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to Millbrook AL students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online schools can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can 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 quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the right option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Millbrook AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant issues to research as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, 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 education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Millbrook AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including 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 offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Millbrook AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement 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 in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws differ from state to state, it may be advantageous to select a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to build relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the area where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to first look at those schools that are within the Millbrook AL area.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost depending on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don't forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be accessible to help reduce part of the expense, so make sure to check with the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Millbrook AL. Naturally if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these added expenses, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Millbrook AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you select makes available that option. Last, find out what the procedure is for making-up classes missed because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Right Millbrook Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the right legal assistant degree program is an essential first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Millbrook home. Paralegal academic programs are made available in numerous lengths and formats. Different types of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you elect to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to review each program and make your final selection. And with the ideal training you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Millbrook Alabama.