How to Pick the Best Paralegal School Near Roanoke Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Roanoke AL and start your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students start by searching for schools within commuting range of their Roanoke homes. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you ought to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program must be taken into consideration as well. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your selection. But before we do, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold comparable job roles and functions, only 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 paralegals and legal assistants assist Roanoke AL lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but some of their daily activities may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Roanoke AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may take as little as 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and get a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Schools
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more prevalent and can be an excellent option for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to Roanoke AL students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in more 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 agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the right option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs available 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 evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many potential 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 significant factors to consider also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency 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 distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Roanoke AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically obtainable 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 special 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. Confirming that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Roanoke AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also offer a means for students to start establishing contacts within the Roanoke AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are evaluating provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it might be beneficial to select a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduation. In addition, it will be important to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the community where you desire to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to first look at those schools that are within the Roanoke AL region.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don't forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be available to help minimize some of the expense, so don't forget to talk to the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Roanoke AL. Naturally if you choose to attend an online school, some of these additional costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Roanoke AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select provides that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making up classes missed due to work, illness or family obligations.
Enroll in the Best Roanoke Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the best paralegal training school is an important first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Roanoke residence. Paralegal academic programs are made available in various lengths and formats. Various kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, 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 pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you decide to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to assess each program and make your final decision. And with the appropriate training you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Roanoke Alabama.