How to Find the Right Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program Near Scottsboro Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Scottsboro AL and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you find the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic choices are being offered, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students start by looking for schools within traveling range of their Scottsboro homes. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you ought to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program should be taken into account too. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let's have 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 for the most part both fill comparable job positions and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Scottsboro AL lawyers with a wide range of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually 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 code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but some of their everyday tasks can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complex and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically 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 begin your career as a paralegal in Scottsboro AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve as little as 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more extensive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. Once you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few 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 school (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Certificates and Degrees
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more available and may be a good option for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Scottsboro AL students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online classes can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a respected organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the ideal choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Schools
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Scottsboro AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other significant aspects to consider also, such as 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 considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Scottsboro AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the School's Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you select 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 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 which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while attending school. They can also provide a means for students to begin creating contacts within the Scottsboro AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Since laws differ from state to state, it might be a good idea to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduating. Also, it will be important to build relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the area where you desire 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 may need to initially look at those colleges that are within the Scottsboro AL region.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be available to help reduce some of the expense, so don't forget to consult with the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Scottsboro AL. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Scottsboro AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you enroll in offers that option. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Scottsboro Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the right legal assistant certificate program is an important first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Scottsboro residence. Paralegal academic programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Different types of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence 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 best possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you elect to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to review each program and make your final decision. And with the appropriate training you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Scottsboro Alabama.