How to Pick the Best Paralegal Studies Certificate or Degree Program Near Russellville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Russellville AL and start your journey that will lead to a rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you find the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students start by looking for schools within commuting distance of their Russellville residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you need to take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be taken into consideration also. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your choice. But first, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill comparable job roles 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 separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Russellville AL lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their daily activities may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a legal assistant in Russellville AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve as little as 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. After you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to continue and receive a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few 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 benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Courses
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more prevalent and may be a good alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to Russellville AL students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the right choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Russellville AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other crucial aspects to research as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at 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 decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program 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 focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Russellville AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided 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 offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also provide a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Russellville AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement 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 confirms that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it might be advantageous to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to build relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the area where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to first consider those colleges that are within the Russellville AL region.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be obtainable to help offset part of the expense, so make sure to contact the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Russellville AL. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Russellville AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you select makes available that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making-up missed classes due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Russellville Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the best legal assistant certificate program is a vital 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 Russellville home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Different types of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you choose to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your final decision. And with the appropriate education you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Russellville Alabama.