How to Choose the Best Paralegal School Near Princeton Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Princeton AL and start your journey that will lead to a fulfilling profession in legal services. However, it's crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic choices are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students start by trying to find schools within commuting range of their Princeton residences. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be taken into account as well. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine 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 choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill the same job roles 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 different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Princeton AL attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their everyday activities might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complex and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to start your career as a paralegal in Princeton AL is by earning a certificate, which may require as little as 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more expansive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. After you have earned 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 employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected 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 address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Classes
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more prevalent and may be a good option for students searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to Princeton AL students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online programs 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 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 quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and conventional setting, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the right option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Princeton 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 particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other critical factors to think about as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Princeton AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the school 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 quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Princeton AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also provide a means for students to start developing contacts within the Princeton AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial 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 vary from one state to another, it might be beneficial 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 necessary to build relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the area where you want 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 might want to initially look at those colleges that are within the Princeton AL area.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don't forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be obtainable to help offset part of the expense, so be sure to contact the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Princeton AL. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online program, some of these additional costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Princeton AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you choose provides that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making up classes missed because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Best Princeton Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the ideal paralegal training program is a vital 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 on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Princeton residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in numerous formats and lengths. Different types of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you choose to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to assess each school and make your final selection. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Princeton Alabama.