How to Find the Best Paralegal Studies Degree Program Near Russellville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Russellville AL and start your journey that will lead to a rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you locate the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational choices are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students start by searching for schools within traveling distance of their Russellville homes. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school must be taken into account as well. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your selection. But before we do, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both fill comparable 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 are part of a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Russellville AL lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is typically billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their routine tasks may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a paralegal in Russellville AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may require just 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and can be earned at many community colleges in 2 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 certificate or degree, you may want to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Courses
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more prevalent and can be a good alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to Russellville AL students who keep working while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a respected organization, for example 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 option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Russellville AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other important aspects to consider as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school 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 might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Russellville AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually available only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some Russellville AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while attending school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Russellville AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Because laws differ from state to state, it may be a good idea to select a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the community where you desire 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 want to first look at those schools that are within the Russellville AL region.
What is the Entire 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. Don't forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help reduce some of the expense, so make sure to consult with the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Russellville AL. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, some of these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Russellville AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Last, ask what the procedure is for making-up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Russellville Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the best legal assistant degree school is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Russellville home. Paralegal training programs are offered in many formats and lengths. Different types of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you elect to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to review each program and make your final selection. And with the right training you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Russellville Alabama.