How to Enroll in the Right Paralegal Studies School Near Russellville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Russellville AL and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students start by trying to find schools within commuting distance of their Russellville homes. Of those choices, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program ought to be considered as well. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your decision. But first, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold comparable job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Russellville AL attorneys with a wide range of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is usually billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their daily activities can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay 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 challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted 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 apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Russellville AL is by earning a certificate, which may take as little as six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more extensive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected certifying organizations 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 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 paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Programs
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more available and may be a good option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to Russellville AL students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an added advantage, online classes can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in greater 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 program and school you are considering are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the right choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Russellville AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true if 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 critical issues to consider as well, for instance 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 researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Russellville AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are often accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the Program's Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you pick 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 call several Russellville AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also provide an avenue for students to start creating contacts within the Russellville AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws vary among states, it might be advantageous to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be important to create relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to initially look at those colleges that are within the Russellville AL area.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help offset some of the expense, so make sure to check with the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Russellville AL. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Russellville AL, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select offers that option. Last, inquire what the process is for making up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Enroll in the Best Russellville Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the right paralegal studies certificate school is a crucial first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Russellville residence. Paralegal training programs are made available in numerous formats and lengths. Several kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you choose to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to evaluate each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Russellville Alabama.