How to Choose the Right Paralegal Studies Course Near Robertsdale Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Robertsdale AL and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you find the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational options are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students start by looking for schools within driving distance of their Robertsdale residences. Of those options, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program must be considered as well. Later in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your selection. But first, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both fill the same job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Robertsdale AL attorneys with a wide variety of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their routine activities might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical tasks more suited 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 preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Robertsdale AL is by earning a certificate, which can require as little as 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be earned at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. After you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected certifying agencies 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 cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Training
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more popular and may be a good alternative for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to Robertsdale AL students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online programs can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the right choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Robertsdale AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other crucial factors to consider also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over a few 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 selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Robertsdale AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically offered only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Robertsdale AL law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to start developing contacts within the Robertsdale AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary from one state to another, it might be advantageous to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the community where you desire to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to first look at those colleges that are within the Robertsdale AL region.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be obtainable to help minimize part of the expense, so make sure to contact the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Robertsdale AL. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, some of these added expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while obtaining their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Robertsdale 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 choose offers that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Robertsdale Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal degree program is a crucial first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Robertsdale home. Paralegal education programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Several types of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you decide to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to examine each program and make your final selection. And with the right education you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Robertsdale Alabama.