How to Find the Right Paralegal Course Near Roanoke Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Roanoke AL and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it's important that you locate the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is one of 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 numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students start by trying to find schools within driving range of their Roanoke residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you need to consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be taken into account too. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your selection. But first, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both fill comparable job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Roanoke AL lawyers with a wide range of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is usually billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their routine tasks can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare 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 involved and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually 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 means to start your career as a paralegal in Roanoke AL is by earning a certificate, which can involve as little as 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more expansive education and may be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. Once you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Schools
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more prevalent and may be an excellent alternative for those looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to Roanoke AL students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the ideal option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Roanoke AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other important issues to think about also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at 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 selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Roanoke AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically available only for accredited programs.
What's the Program's Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Roanoke AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while still in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to start developing contacts within the Roanoke AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing 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 secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication 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 Campus Located? Because laws differ among states, it may be beneficial to select a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the community where you desire to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to first look at those schools that are within the Roanoke AL area.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential received and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don't forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be available to help offset part of the expense, so make sure to check with the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Roanoke AL. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, some of these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Roanoke AL, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you select offers that option. Finally, find out what the process is for making up classes missed due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Roanoke Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the ideal paralegal certificate program is a crucial first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Roanoke home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in various lengths and formats. Several types of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you elect to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to review each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal education you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Roanoke Alabama.