How to Find the Best Paralegal Studies Training Program Near Princeton Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Princeton AL and begin your journey that will result in a satisfying career in legal services. However, it's important that you find the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students begin by trying to find schools within traveling distance of their Princeton homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you must take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school should be taken into consideration as well. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your choice. But before we do, 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 essentially both fill 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 Princeton AL attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the attorney's. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their routine tasks can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a paralegal in Princeton AL is by earning a certificate, which may take as little as 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more extensive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. When you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Certificates and Degrees
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more prevalent and may be an excellent alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to Princeton AL students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in greater 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 program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the right option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Princeton AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most potential 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 important factors to consider as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
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 might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Princeton 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 programs.
What's the Reputation of the School? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call a few Princeton AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Princeton AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Because laws vary from one state to another, it might be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, possibly 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, many require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to first look at those colleges that are within the Princeton AL region.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be available to help minimize some of the cost, so don't forget to talk to the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Princeton AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, some of these added costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Princeton AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select offers that option. Last, inquire what the protocol is for making-up classes missed due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Princeton Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the ideal legal assistant training program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Princeton residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in various lengths and formats. Different kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you choose to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to evaluate each school and make your final decision. And with the appropriate training you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Princeton Alabama.