How to Select the Right Paralegal 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 result in a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it's crucial that you locate the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students begin by trying to find schools within driving distance of their Pleasant Grove residences. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be taken into consideration also. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both hold the same job positions and functions, just with different titles. However, 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 Pleasant Grove AL attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their daily tasks can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. On the other hand, 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. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Pleasant Grove AL is by earning a certificate, which can take as little as six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and can be earned at numerous 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. When you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning 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 Classes
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more available and can be an excellent option for those looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to Pleasant Grove AL students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online schools can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a reputable agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the ideal option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Pleasant Grove AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other crucial factors to research as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you should 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 reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify 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. Numerous Pleasant Grove AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are often available only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Pleasant Grove AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also offer a means for students to start developing contacts within the Pleasant Grove AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ among states, it might be advantageous to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the community where you want 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 want to initially look at those schools that are within the Pleasant Grove AL region.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help offset part of the expense, so make sure to consult with the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Pleasant Grove AL. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these additional costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Pleasant Grove AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you select provides that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making up missed classes because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Pleasant Grove Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the ideal paralegal studies certificate school is an important first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Pleasant Grove residence. Paralegal training programs are made available in various lengths and formats. Several types of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you decide to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to evaluate each school and make your final selection. And with the ideal education you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Pleasant Grove Alabama.