How to Select the Right Paralegal Studies Program Near Saks Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Saks AL and start your journey that will lead to a rewarding profession in legal services. However, it's important that you find the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to succeed. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic choices are becoming available, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students start by trying to find schools within commuting distance of their Saks homes. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program should be considered also. Later in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your selection. But first, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational options 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 functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Saks AL attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, including 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. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the attorney's. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but some of their daily tasks might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically 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 way to start your career as a paralegal in Saks AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve just 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more extensive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected certifying organizations 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Certificates and Degrees
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more prevalent and can be an excellent alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to Saks AL students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online classes can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the ideal choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Saks AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other important factors to research also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Saks AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually offered only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the School? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking 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 some Saks AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the Saks AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering 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 confirms that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it might be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the community where you choose to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially consider those colleges that are within the Saks AL area.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help offset some of the cost, so don't forget to check with the school's financial aid department to see what is offered in Saks AL. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, some of these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Saks AL, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you enroll in makes available that option. Last, find out what the procedure is for making up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Right Saks Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the ideal paralegal studies training school is an important first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Saks home. Paralegal education programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Different types of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including 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 prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you choose to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to examine each school and make your final selection. And with the appropriate education you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Saks Alabama.