How to Enroll in the Best Paralegal Studies Training Program Near Scottsboro Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Scottsboro AL and start your journey that will result in a satisfying profession in legal services. However, it's essential that you find the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational options are being offered, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students start by looking for schools within traveling range of their Scottsboro residences. Of those options, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you need to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school should be taken into consideration also. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your selection. But before we do, let's have 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
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold the same job roles and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Scottsboro AL lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. 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 could help with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their routine activities may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really 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 take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, 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 opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career as a paralegal in Scottsboro AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may require as little as six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected 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 program (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Certificates and Degrees
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more prevalent and may be a good alternative for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to Scottsboro AL students who keep working while earning a degree. As an added advantage, online classes can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional environment, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the right choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Scottsboro AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. 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 covered, there are other significant factors to consider as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Scottsboro AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the School's Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Scottsboro AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also provide a means for students to start developing contacts within the Scottsboro AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Since laws vary among states, 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 cultivate relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the community where you want to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially investigate those schools that are within the Scottsboro AL region.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be accessible to help reduce some of the cost, so make sure to talk to the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Scottsboro AL. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Scottsboro AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you select provides that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making-up missed classes due to work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Right Scottsboro Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the right paralegal 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 Scottsboro home. Paralegal training programs are made available in many formats and lengths. Several types of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you choose to receive your education 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 selection. And with the right education you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Scottsboro Alabama.