How to Pick the Best Paralegal Certificate Program Near Roanoke Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Roanoke AL and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding career in legal services. However, it's essential that you find the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students start by trying to find schools within commuting range of their Roanoke residences. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you must take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program must be considered too. Later in this article we will review a list of concerns that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold comparable job positions and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Roanoke AL attorneys with a wide range of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their day-to-day tasks may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and very demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, 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 requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Roanoke AL is by earning a certificate, which may involve as little as 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. When you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to continue and earn a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help substantiate 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 school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Courses
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more available and may be a good option for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Roanoke AL students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the ideal choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can start the process of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Roanoke AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial factors to research also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Roanoke AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the School's Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, 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 a few Roanoke AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while attending school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Roanoke AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without help. Find out 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 great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary among states, it might be a good idea to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduation. In addition, it will be important to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to initially consider those colleges that are within the Roanoke AL area.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential received and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don't forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be available to help reduce some of the expense, so be sure to consult with the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Roanoke AL. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, some of these additional expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Roanoke AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you select makes available that option. Last, inquire what the process is for making-up classes missed because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Right Roanoke Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the right paralegal studies training program is an important first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Roanoke home. Paralegal academic programs are made available in many lengths and formats. Various kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice 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 schools, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you choose to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to evaluate each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Roanoke Alabama.