How to Choose the Right Paralegal Studies Certificate or Degree Program Near Saks Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Saks AL and begin your journey that will result in a fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you find the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students start by trying to find schools within traveling range of their Saks residences. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you must take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be considered also. Later on in this post we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your decision. But first, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both fill comparable job positions and functions, 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 category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Saks AL attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific 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 assist with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their everyday tasks can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees 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 legal assistant in Saks AL is by earning a certificate, which may require just six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. After you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and obtain a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. 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 cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Classes
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more common and may be an excellent alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to Saks AL students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an added advantage, online programs can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, 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 obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a respected organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the right option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Saks AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other critical factors to think about also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may 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 training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Saks AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are often available only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Research 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 previous work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Saks AL law firms that you may have an interest 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 outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the Saks AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering 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 graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary among states, it may be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the community where you desire 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 may want to first investigate those colleges that are within the Saks AL region.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be accessible to help minimize part of the cost, so be sure to check with the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Saks AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Saks AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in offers that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making-up missed classes because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Best Saks Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the right paralegal studies certificate school is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Saks home. Paralegal education programs are offered in many formats and lengths. Different types of private and public institutions provide 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 pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you decide to receive your education 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 final selection. And with the right training you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Saks Alabama.