How to Enroll in the Right Paralegal Studies Training Program Near Mountain Brook Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Mountain Brook AL and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you find the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational options are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students begin by looking for schools within commuting range of their Mountain Brook residences. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be taken into consideration too. Later on in this article we will review a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill comparable job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Mountain Brook AL attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is typically billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their daily tasks might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Mountain Brook AL is by earning a certificate, which can involve just six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can 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 acquired either a certificate or degree, you may want to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some 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 school (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Training
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more available and can be an excellent alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to Mountain Brook AL students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the ideal choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Mountain Brook AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other significant factors to think about as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a highly regarded 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 targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Mountain Brook AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often available only for accredited programs.
What's the School's Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Mountain Brook AL law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also offer an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Mountain Brook AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws differ among states, it may be advantageous to choose a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable 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 work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Mountain Brook AL region.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don't forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be available to help offset part of the cost, so make sure to talk to the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Mountain Brook AL. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, some of these added expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Mountain Brook 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. Last, inquire what the protocol is for making-up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Mountain Brook Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the best paralegal studies certificate school is an important first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Mountain Brook home. Paralegal academic programs are provided in various formats and lengths. Various types of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you elect to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to assess each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Mountain Brook Alabama.