How to Choose the Best Paralegal Studies Certificate Program Near Rainsville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Rainsville AL and start your journey that will result in a fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students start by searching for schools within driving distance of their Rainsville homes. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be taken into account too. Later in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your choice. But first, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold the same job positions 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 separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Rainsville AL attorneys with a wide range of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is usually billed hourly as are the attorney's. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their daily activities may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting 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 involved and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical functions more apropos 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 ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to start your career as a paralegal in Rainsville AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can require as little as six months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. After you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to continue and earn a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your job opportunities, but help establish 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 two important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Classes
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more prevalent and may be an excellent option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to Rainsville AL students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online schools can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the ideal choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Rainsville AL area, as well as trade and vocational 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 searching for schools within driving 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 a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Rainsville AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically offered only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some Rainsville AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the Rainsville AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Since laws vary among states, it may be advantageous to select a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to build relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the area where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially investigate those schools that are within the Rainsville AL region.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help minimize some of the expense, so be sure to talk to the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Rainsville AL. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Rainsville AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you select provides that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making-up classes missed because of work, illness or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Rainsville Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the best paralegal studies degree program is an essential first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Rainsville residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in various formats and lengths. Several types of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you decide to obtain 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 selection. And with the appropriate education you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Rainsville Alabama.