How to Find the Right Paralegal School Near Saraland Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Saraland AL and begin your journey that will lead to a fulfilling career 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 be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational choices are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students begin by searching for schools within driving distance of their Saraland homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be taken into account also. Later on in this post we will review a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your choice. But first, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill comparable job positions and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Saraland AL lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their routine activities might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be involved and very demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed 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 tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because 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 alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a paralegal in Saraland AL is by earning a certificate, which can involve as little as 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded certifying organizations in the profession 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 discuss 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 paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Certificates and Degrees
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more available and may be a good alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Saraland AL students who keep working while earning a degree. As an added advantage, online programs can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the ideal option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Saraland AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant factors to consider also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify 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. Many Saraland AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some Saraland AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also present a means for students to start establishing contacts within the Saraland 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 pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering have job assistance 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 highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary from one state to another, it might be a good idea to choose a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to build relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the area where you desire to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to initially investigate those schools that are within the Saraland AL region.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don't forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help reduce some of the expense, so make sure to contact the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Saraland AL. Naturally if you choose to attend an online school, some of these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Saraland AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making-up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Saraland Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal studies certificate school is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Saraland residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in many lengths and formats. Various kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including 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 career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you decide to acquire 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 decision. And with the appropriate education you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Saraland Alabama.