How to Choose the Best Paralegal Studies Degree Program Near Saks Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Saks AL and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding career in legal services. However, 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 understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational options are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students start by searching for schools within driving range of their Saks residences. Of those options, they search for 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 consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be considered too. Later on in this post we will cover a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your choice. But before we do, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold the same 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 belong to a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Saks AL lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions 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 trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their routine tasks can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys 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 role of a paralegal can be involved and very demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to manage 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. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Saks AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can take as little as 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more extensive education and may be acquired 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 might choose to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. 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 school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Programs
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more available and may be a good option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to Saks AL students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online schools can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a respected organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the right choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Saks AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant factors to research also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Saks AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the Program's Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no previous experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Saks AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while still in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the Saks AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Since laws differ from one state to another, it might be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to create relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the area where you choose to practice. 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 first consider those schools that are within the Saks AL region.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be accessible to help offset part of the cost, so make sure to check with the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Saks AL. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, some of these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Saks AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you select offers that option. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making up missed classes because of work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Best Saks Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Enrolling in the right legal assistant training school is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Saks residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in various lengths and formats. Various types of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you elect to obtain your training 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 ultimate decision. And with the ideal education you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Saks Alabama.