How to Select the Best Paralegal Studies Certificate Program Near Oneonta Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Oneonta AL and start your journey that will lead to a rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you find the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require 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 being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students start by looking for schools within traveling distance of their Oneonta homes. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you ought to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school must be taken into account as well. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your decision. But first, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill comparable job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Oneonta AL attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is normally billed hourly as are the attorney's. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their regular activities can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be involved and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to start your career as a paralegal in Oneonta AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve as little as six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more extensive education and may be earned at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and obtain 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. A few 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Courses
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more prevalent and may be a good alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to Oneonta AL students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover 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 considering are accredited by a highly regarded agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the right option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Oneonta 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 if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other crucial issues to consider also, 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 thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Oneonta AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically available only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Oneonta AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the Oneonta AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ from state to state, it might be beneficial to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to first investigate those schools that are within the Oneonta AL region.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be accessible to help offset some of the expense, so don't forget to check with the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Oneonta AL. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, some of these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while getting their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Oneonta AL, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in offers that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making up missed classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Oneonta Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the best paralegal studies training program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Oneonta residence. Paralegal training programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Several types of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you choose to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to evaluate each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the right education you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Oneonta Alabama.