How to Enroll in the Right Paralegal Course Near Satsuma Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Satsuma AL and begin your journey that will result in a fulfilling profession in legal services. However, it's crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic options are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students begin by searching for schools within driving distance of their Satsuma residences. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school should be considered as well. Later on in this article we will cover a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your selection. But first, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold the same job positions and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Satsuma AL attorneys with a wide range of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day tasks may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and rather demanding. On the other hand, 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 administrative or clerical duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a legal assistant in Satsuma AL is by earning a certificate, which can take as little as six months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. Once you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to proceed and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some 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 school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Training
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more popular and can be an excellent alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to Satsuma AL students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online 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 program and school you are considering are accredited by a reputable agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the ideal option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Satsuma AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other critical factors to research as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation 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 ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose should be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Satsuma AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, 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. Reviewing school rating reports, 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 several Satsuma AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the Satsuma AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary from one state to another, it may be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduating. In addition, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially look at those colleges that are within the Satsuma AL area.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential earned and the length 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 aid might be obtainable to help offset part of the expense, so make sure to contact the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Satsuma AL. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Satsuma AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you choose offers that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making up missed classes due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Satsuma Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the best paralegal studies degree program is an essential first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed 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 Satsuma home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in various lengths and formats. Several types of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you elect to receive 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 final selection. And with the ideal training you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Satsuma Alabama.