How to Find the Right Paralegal Course 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 satisfying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you locate the right school so that you will get the extensive 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 increasingly more educational choices are becoming available, both at school 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 choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be taken into account also. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your decision. But first, 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.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both fill the same job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Scottsboro AL attorneys with a wide range of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their daily activities may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping 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 job of a paralegal can be involved and very challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs 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 educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Scottsboro AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may require as little as 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and may 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 an option also. After you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might choose to continue and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. 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 school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Programs
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more common and may be an excellent option for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to Scottsboro AL students who keep working while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the ideal choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Scottsboro AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other important issues to research as well, such as accreditation and the reputation 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 thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Scottsboro AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Scottsboro AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while attending school. They can also offer a means for students to start creating contacts within the Scottsboro AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first 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. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws differ from state to state, it might be beneficial to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be important to establish relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the area where you desire to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to first investigate those colleges that are within the Scottsboro AL area.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be accessible to help minimize part of the cost, so don't forget to talk to the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Scottsboro AL. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, some of these additional costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while getting their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely 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, make certain that the program you choose offers that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making-up missed classes because of work, illness or family obligations.
Enroll in the Best Scottsboro Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the best legal assistant training 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 choice of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Scottsboro home. Paralegal training programs are provided in various lengths and formats. Several types of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you elect to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to examine each program and make your final selection. And with the right training you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Scottsboro Alabama.