How to Pick the Best Paralegal Course Near Phenix City Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Phenix City AL and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you locate the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational options are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students start by trying to find schools within traveling distance of their Phenix City residences. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program ought to be considered as well. Later on in this post we will cover a list of questions that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your choice. But first, 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.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both fill the same job roles and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Phenix City AL lawyers with a wide range of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their routine activities might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be involved and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Phenix City AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve as little as six months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. After you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help establish 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 program (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Schools
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more popular and may be an excellent option for students searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Phenix City AL students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online schools can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a reputable organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the ideal option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Phenix City AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other important factors to consider as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Phenix City AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically available only for accredited programs.
What's the Program's Reputation? Investigate 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 experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Phenix City AL law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also present an avenue for students to start creating contacts within the Phenix City AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have sizable networks and great 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 vary among states, it may be advantageous to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduating. Also, it will be important to establish relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the community where you desire to work. 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 initially look at those colleges that are within the Phenix City AL area.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential earned and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be obtainable to help reduce some of the cost, so be sure to check with the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Phenix City AL. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these added expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Phenix City AL, make sure classes are offered 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, inquire what the protocol is for making up classes missed due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Phenix City Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the ideal paralegal studies certificate school is a vital first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Phenix City residence. Paralegal training programs are offered in various lengths and formats. Different types of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you choose to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to evaluate each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the right training you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Phenix City Alabama.