How to Select the Best Paralegal Studies Certificate or Degree Program Near Satsuma Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Satsuma AL and begin your journey that will lead to a fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you locate the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students begin by trying to find schools within driving distance of their Satsuma residences. Of those options, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school should be taken into account too. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold the same job positions and functions, just 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 Satsuma AL attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the attorney's. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their day-to-day tasks may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Satsuma AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may require just 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do require 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 available also. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might want to proceed and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial 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 those searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to Satsuma AL students who keep working while earning a degree. As an added advantage, online programs can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the right choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Satsuma AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when 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 previously covered, there are other important issues to think about as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Training 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 school, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Satsuma AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically available only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the School? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some Satsuma AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while still in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the Satsuma AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing 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 corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Since laws differ from one state to another, it may be advantageous to select a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the community where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Satsuma AL area.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be available to help reduce part of the expense, so be sure to contact the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Satsuma AL. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, some of these added expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Satsuma AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you select offers that option. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Satsuma Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal studies degree school is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered 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 residence. Paralegal academic programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Various kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you elect to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to examine each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the right education you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Satsuma Alabama.