How to Pick the Right Paralegal Studies Degree 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 fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you find the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you most likely know, 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 on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students start by trying to find schools within traveling distance of their Millbrook homes. Of those choices, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program should be taken into consideration 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 evaluate and compare every one before making your decision. But first, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both fill the same job positions and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Millbrook AL attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their daily activities can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic 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 may involve just six months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your employment 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 cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Training
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more common and can be a good alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to Millbrook AL students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a respected organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Millbrook AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many 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 think about also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Millbrook AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually available only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the School? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify 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 suggest. Keep in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also present a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Millbrook AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws differ among states, it may be a good idea to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be important to build relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to first investigate those colleges that are within the Millbrook AL region.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. However, 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 assistance might be accessible to help offset some of the expense, so make sure to check with the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Millbrook AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Millbrook AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you enroll in makes available that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Millbrook Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the best paralegal certificate program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Millbrook home. Paralegal education programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Various kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you decide to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to assess each school and make your final selection. And with the appropriate education you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Millbrook Alabama.