How to Enroll in the Best Paralegal School Near Satsuma Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Satsuma AL and start your journey that will result in a fulfilling career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you locate the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic options are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students start by searching for schools within traveling distance of their Satsuma residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program must be taken into account as well. Later in this post we will cover a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your choice. But before we do, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both fill the same job roles and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Satsuma AL attorneys with a diverse array of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help 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 lawyer's. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day activities can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative functions more suited 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 are able to handle 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 perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to start your career as a paralegal in Satsuma AL is by earning a certificate, which can involve just six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more extensive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Schools
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more prevalent and may be an excellent option for those searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to Satsuma AL students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online classes can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online 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 caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded agency, such as 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 could be the right choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Satsuma AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate 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 potential students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other critical issues to consider as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Satsuma AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually available only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the School? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Satsuma AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also offer a means for students to start developing contacts within the Satsuma AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ from one state to another, it may be beneficial to select a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the community where you wish to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to first investigate those schools that are within the Satsuma AL region.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential received and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be obtainable to help offset some of the cost, so don't forget to contact the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Satsuma AL. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, some of these added costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. 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 enroll in makes available that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Satsuma Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the best legal assistant training program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Satsuma home. Paralegal education programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Several kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school 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 programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you decide to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to evaluate each program and make your final selection. And with the ideal education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Satsuma Alabama.