How to Pick the Best Paralegal Studies School Near Pinson Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Pinson AL and start your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you find the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational choices are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students start by searching for schools within traveling range of their Pinson homes. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school should be considered as well. Later on in this article we will cover a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your choice. But first, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold 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 category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Pinson AL attorneys with a wide range of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their everyday tasks may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- 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 additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Pinson AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve as little as 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Certificates and Degrees
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more prevalent and can be a good option for those looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to Pinson AL students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can often be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a reputable organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the right choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Schools
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can start the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Pinson AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other critical issues to think about also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose should be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Pinson AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Pinson AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while attending school. They can also provide a means for students to start developing contacts within the Pinson AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating 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 want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. 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 sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it might be beneficial to select a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to build relationships in the local 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 charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to initially consider those schools that are within the Pinson AL area.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help reduce some of the cost, so don't forget to contact the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Pinson AL. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, some of these additional costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Pinson AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you choose makes available that option. Last, ask what the process is for making up missed classes due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Pinson Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the best paralegal studies degree program is an important 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 participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Pinson home. Paralegal education programs are made available in various lengths and formats. Various types of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you choose to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to examine each program and make your final selection. And with the ideal education you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Pinson Alabama.