How to Enroll in the Right Paralegal Studies Course Near Scottsboro Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Scottsboro AL and start your journey that will result in a fulfilling career in legal services. However, it's important that you find the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students begin by looking for schools within commuting distance of their Scottsboro homes. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school must be taken into account as well. Later on in this post we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially 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 different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Scottsboro AL attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day tasks can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- 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 job of a paralegal can be complex and very challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative functions more applicable 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 preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees 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 academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Scottsboro AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve as little as six months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and can be earned at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may want to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded 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 program (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Training
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more popular and may be an excellent alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Scottsboro AL students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can often be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a respected organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the right choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Scottsboro AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other significant issues to consider also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Scottsboro AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some Scottsboro AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the Scottsboro AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance 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 graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary from state to state, it might be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the area where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to first consider those colleges that are within the Scottsboro AL region.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be obtainable to help offset part of the cost, so make sure to talk to the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Scottsboro AL. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these additional costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Scottsboro AL, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you choose makes available that option. Last, find out what the procedure is for making-up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Right Scottsboro Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Enrolling in the right paralegal training school is a crucial first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Scottsboro residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in many lengths and formats. Various kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you decide to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to examine each program and make your final selection. And with the appropriate education you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Scottsboro Alabama.