How to Choose the Right Paralegal Studies Program Near Saks Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Saks AL and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it's important that you find the best school so that you will get 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 increasingly more educational alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students start by searching for schools within commuting range of their Saks residences. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be considered as well. Later on in this post we will review a list of questions that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your decision. But first, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold comparable job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Saks AL lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific 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 transferring documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their regular activities may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and very challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for lawyers. 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 alone.
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 academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career as a paralegal in Saks AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may require just six months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more expansive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. After you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might choose to continue and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Training
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more common and can be a good alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to Saks AL students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the ideal option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Saks AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other critical factors to think about also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online education. 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 as well. Many Saks AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the School's Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no previous experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some Saks AL law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also provide a means for students to begin creating contacts within the Saks AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Ask 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 indication 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? Because laws vary among states, it may be beneficial to select a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduation. Also, it will be important to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to initially investigate those schools that are within the Saks AL region.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be available to help offset some of the expense, so don't forget to talk to the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Saks AL. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Saks AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you choose provides that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making-up missed classes because of work, illness or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Saks Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the right paralegal training school is a crucial 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 on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Saks residence. Paralegal academic programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Different types of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection 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 wisely. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you elect to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to examine each program and make your final selection. And with the right training you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Saks Alabama.