How to Choose the Best Paralegal Studies Training Program Near Pleasant Grove Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Pleasant Grove AL and start your journey that will lead to a fulfilling career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students begin by looking for schools within driving range of their Pleasant Grove residences. Of those options, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you ought to consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school must be taken into consideration as well. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your decision. But first, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both fill the same job positions and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Pleasant Grove AL attorneys with a wide range of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might 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 lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their regular activities may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- 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 maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Pleasant Grove AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can require as little as 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more expansive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and earn a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Schools
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more common and may be a good option for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to Pleasant Grove AL students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the right choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Pleasant Grove AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must learn 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 most potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other important issues to consider as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select should be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on 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 demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Pleasant Grove AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few Pleasant Grove AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also offer a means for students to start establishing contacts within the Pleasant Grove AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Since laws vary among states, it may be a good idea to choose a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the community where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially consider those colleges that are within the Pleasant Grove AL area.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help reduce some of the cost, so be sure to check with the school's financial aid department to see what is offered in Pleasant Grove AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online program, some of these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Pleasant Grove AL, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you choose provides that option. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making up missed classes due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Pleasant Grove Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Enrolling in the right paralegal training program is an essential first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Pleasant Grove home. Paralegal education programs are provided in various formats and lengths. Various kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you elect to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to evaluate each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the right education you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Pleasant Grove Alabama.