How to Pick the Right Paralegal Degree Program Near Robertsdale Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Robertsdale AL and start your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it's essential that you find the best school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic choices are being offered, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students start by trying to find schools within driving distance of their Robertsdale residences. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be taken into consideration too. Later in this post we will cover a list of questions that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your decision. But first, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both fill the same job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Robertsdale AL attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but some of their regular activities may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Robertsdale AL is by earning a certificate, which may take just 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and earn a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can 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 benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Training
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more available and can be a good option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Robertsdale AL students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss 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 looking into are accredited by a respected organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and conventional setting, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the right choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Robertsdale AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other critical issues to consider also, such as 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 investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Robertsdale AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often offered only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the School? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you choose 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 quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some Robertsdale AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also provide an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Robertsdale AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their success 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 Campus Located? Since laws vary among states, it may be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to create relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the area where you desire to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to first investigate those schools that are within the Robertsdale AL area.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential received and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be accessible to help minimize part of the cost, so make sure to consult with the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Robertsdale AL. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, some of these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit 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 Robertsdale AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you choose offers that option. Last, ask what the process is for making-up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Robertsdale Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the ideal legal assistant certificate school is a vital 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 privacy and comfort of your Robertsdale residence. Paralegal academic programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Different types of private and public institutions provide 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 impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you elect to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to examine each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate training you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Robertsdale Alabama.