How to Choose the Best Paralegal Training Program Near Oneonta Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Oneonta AL and start your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you find the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students start by searching for schools within commuting distance of their Oneonta homes. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school should be considered too. Later on in this post we will review a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your selection. But first, let's take 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
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both hold the same job positions and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, 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 Oneonta AL attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties 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 the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their everyday activities can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted 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 duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Oneonta AL is by earning a certificate, which can require as little as six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and may be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. Once you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to continue and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Courses
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more prevalent and can be a good alternative for those looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Oneonta 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 secondary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater 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 program and school you are looking into are accredited by a reputable organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the ideal option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Oneonta AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial aspects to think about as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can 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 get will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Oneonta AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Oneonta AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also offer a means for students to start creating contacts within the Oneonta AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Because laws vary from one state to another, it may be advantageous to select a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Oneonta AL area.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential earned 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 supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be accessible to help reduce part of the expense, so don't forget to talk to the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Oneonta AL. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Oneonta AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Last, ask what the procedure is for making-up classes missed due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Oneonta Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the best paralegal training school is an essential first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Oneonta home. Paralegal academic programs are provided in numerous lengths and formats. Different kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you choose to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to examine each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate training you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Oneonta Alabama.