How to Pick the Best Paralegal Course Near Robertsdale Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies 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 achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic options are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students begin by trying to find schools within traveling distance of their Robertsdale residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school must be considered too. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your choice. But first, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both fill the same job positions and responsibilities, only 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 paralegals and legal assistants help Robertsdale AL lawyers with a wide range of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is typically 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 abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their routine tasks might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers 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 possibly 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 launch your career as a legal assistant in Robertsdale AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can require just 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might want to continue and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded 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 address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help guarantee 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 common and may be a good alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to Robertsdale AL students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online classes can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain 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 disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the right option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Schools
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Robertsdale AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant factors to research also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Robertsdale AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically available only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the School? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Robertsdale AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Robertsdale AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering 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 confirms that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it may be a good idea to select a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. Also, it will be important to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you desire to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Robertsdale AL area.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don't forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be available to help offset part of the cost, so don't forget to check with the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Robertsdale AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these added costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Robertsdale AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you select provides that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Best Robertsdale Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the best paralegal studies certificate program is an essential first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Robertsdale home. Paralegal academic programs are provided in many lengths and formats. Several types of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this exciting 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 evaluate each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate training you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Robertsdale Alabama.