How to Select the Best Paralegal Studies Program Near Rainbow City Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Rainbow City AL and start your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you find the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students begin by searching for schools within driving distance of their Rainbow City homes. Of those options, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school should be taken into account too. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill the same job positions and functions, only with different titles. However, 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 Rainbow City AL attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and follow 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 regular activities might 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 attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Rainbow City AL is by earning a certificate, which can require just six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. When you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might want to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some of the highly regarded 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 essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Programs
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more available and may be an excellent option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to Rainbow City AL students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum 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 looking into are accredited by a highly regarded organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the ideal choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Rainbow City AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other critical factors to consider also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a respected accrediting agency 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 obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Rainbow City AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the School's Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some Rainbow City AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while attending school. They can also provide an avenue for students to start developing contacts within the Rainbow City AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary among states, it may be beneficial to select a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to 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 schools that are within the Rainbow City AL area.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost depending on the credential received and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be available to help reduce some of the cost, so make sure to contact the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Rainbow City AL. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, some of these added expenses, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Rainbow City AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you select makes available that option. Last, find out what the procedure is for making-up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Best Rainbow City Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the right legal assistant training program is a crucial 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 Rainbow City home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in numerous formats and lengths. Different kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you elect to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to review each school and make your final decision. And with the right education you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Rainbow City Alabama.