How to Find the Best Paralegal Studies Training Program Near Rainsville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Rainsville AL and begin your journey that will lead to a fulfilling profession in legal services. However, it's essential that you find the right school so that you will receive the extensive 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 increasingly more academic options are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students begin by searching for schools within driving range of their Rainsville residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program ought to be taken into consideration as well. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your decision. But first, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both fill comparable job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, 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 lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions 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 trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is typically billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their everyday activities may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education 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 job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Rainsville AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may take as little as six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more extensive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. Once you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may want to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected certifying agencies 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will discuss the advantages 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.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Training
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more common and can be a good option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to Rainsville AL students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized 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 education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the right choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can start the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Rainsville AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important factors to think about as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
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 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 show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Rainsville AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often available only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of particular 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. Checking that the school you pick is accredited is a good 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 contact a few Rainsville AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while still in school. They can also offer a means for students to begin creating contacts within the Rainsville AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Because laws vary from state to state, it might be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduating. In addition, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the area where you choose to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Rainsville AL area.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in cost depending on the credential received and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be obtainable to help minimize some of the expense, so make sure to consult with the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Rainsville AL. Of course if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Rainsville AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you enroll in offers that option. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making-up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Rainsville Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the ideal legal assistant certificate program is an essential first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Rainsville residence. Paralegal training programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Different kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you choose to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to examine each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Rainsville Alabama.