How to Find the Right Paralegal Studies Program Near Pike Road Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Pike Road AL and start your journey that will result in a fulfilling career in legal services. However, it's important that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational choices 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 trying to find schools within commuting range of their Pike Road homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be considered too. Later in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold comparable job roles and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Pike Road AL lawyers with a wide variety of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their day-to-day tasks may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching related cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be involved and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to start your career as a paralegal in Pike Road 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 provide a more comprehensive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. When you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 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.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Programs
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more available and can be an excellent option for those looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Pike Road AL students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online programs can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain 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 disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the ideal choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Pike Road AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other crucial issues to research as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at 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 decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select should be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Pike Road AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually available only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Pike Road AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while still in school. They can also offer a means for students to begin creating contacts within the Pike Road AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it might be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the community where you desire to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to first look at those colleges that are within the Pike Road AL region.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential earned and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don't forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be accessible to help minimize part of the expense, so be sure to talk to the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Pike Road AL. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these added expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Pike Road 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 choose offers that option. Last, inquire what the process is for making-up classes missed due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Pike Road Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the best paralegal degree school is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Pike Road residence. Paralegal training programs are offered in various lengths and formats. Several types of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you decide to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to assess each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the right education you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Pike Road Alabama.