How to Choose the Right Paralegal Training Program Near Saraland Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Saraland AL and begin your journey that will lead to a satisfying profession in legal services. However, it's crucial that you find the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic options are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students start by searching for schools within traveling range of their Saraland homes. Of those options, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school should be taken into account too. Later on in this article we will cover a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your selection. But before we do, 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.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill the same job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Saraland AL lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular 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 firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their everyday tasks may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to start your career as a paralegal in Saraland AL is by earning a certificate, which may require just six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish 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, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. When you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may want to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Courses
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more popular and may be a good option for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to Saraland AL students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the ideal option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can start the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Saraland AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant factors to think about also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick need to be accredited by a reputable organization 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 training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Saraland AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the School? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call a few Saraland AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also offer a means for students to start creating contacts within the Saraland AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement 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 graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws differ among states, it may be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to create relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the area where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to first investigate those schools that are within the Saraland AL area.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential received and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don't forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be obtainable to help offset some of the cost, so be sure to consult with the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Saraland AL. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, some of these added costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Saraland AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you select makes available that option. Last, find out what the process is for making up classes missed due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Saraland Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the best paralegal studies certificate school is an important first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Saraland residence. Paralegal academic programs are made available in numerous lengths and formats. Different types of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you elect to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to assess each program and make your final selection. And with the appropriate education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Saraland Alabama.