How to Enroll in the Best Paralegal Course 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 satisfying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you find the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students begin by trying to find schools within driving distance of their Pleasant Grove residences. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be considered as well. Later on in this article we will cover a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your selection. But first, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold the same job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Pleasant Grove AL lawyers with a wide variety of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might 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 lawyer's. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their everyday activities can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be involved and very 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 action. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a paralegal in Pleasant Grove AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can require as little as six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may want to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your job opportunities, but help substantiate 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Programs
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more available and can be a good option for students searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to Pleasant Grove AL students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online programs can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the right option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Schools
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Pleasant Grove AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other critical aspects to consider as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick need to be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of 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 offered only for accredited programs.
What's the Program's Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are new to 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 select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some Pleasant Grove AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs offer 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 begin developing contacts within the Pleasant Grove AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering 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 great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it might be beneficial to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the area where you want to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to first consider those colleges that are within the Pleasant Grove AL region.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential received and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be accessible to help reduce some of the cost, so don't forget to talk to the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Pleasant Grove AL. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Pleasant Grove AL, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you choose makes available that option. Last, find out what the process is for making up missed classes due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Best Pleasant Grove Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the right paralegal degree program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Pleasant Grove home. Paralegal education programs are made available in many formats and lengths. Several types of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you decide to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to examine each program and make your final selection. And with the ideal training you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Pleasant Grove Alabama.