How to Select the Best Paralegal Studies Program Near Robertsdale Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Robertsdale AL and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you locate the right 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 choices are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students start by searching for schools within traveling range of their Robertsdale homes. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be taken into consideration also. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill the same job roles and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Robertsdale AL lawyers with a wide range of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the attorney's. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their regular tasks can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly 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 handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Robertsdale AL is by earning a certificate, which may take just six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more expansive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Certificates and Degrees
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more prevalent and can be a good alternative for those looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to Robertsdale AL students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the right choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many 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 so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other important factors to consider also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also get 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 get will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Robertsdale AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually offered only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some Robertsdale AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also present a means for students to start creating contacts within the Robertsdale AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws differ among states, it might be a good idea to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the area where you want to work. 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 might want to first consider those schools that are within the Robertsdale AL area.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential received and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be available to help reduce part of the expense, so make sure to check with the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Robertsdale AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Robertsdale AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you choose provides that option. Finally, inquire 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
Choosing the best paralegal studies certificate school is an important first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Robertsdale residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in various formats and lengths. Various kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you elect to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to review each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal education you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Robertsdale Alabama.