How to Enroll in the Best Paralegal Degree Program Near Selma Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Selma AL and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you find the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students begin by looking for schools within driving distance of their Selma residences. Of those options, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school need to be taken into consideration too. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold comparable job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Selma AL lawyers with a wide range of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code 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 tasks may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
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 job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Selma AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can require as little as 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and can be earned at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. When you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may want to proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your career 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Classes
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more prevalent and may be an excellent option for those looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to Selma AL students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can often be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the right option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Selma AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many 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 crucial aspects to consider also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might 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 receive will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Selma AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually available only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent 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 Selma AL law offices 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 ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also present a means for students to start establishing contacts within the Selma AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ from one state to another, it may be beneficial to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to build relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to first consider those colleges that are within the Selma AL area.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential received and the amount of training provided. 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 also. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help minimize part of the cost, so be sure to contact the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Selma AL. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online program, some of these added costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Selma AL, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you select makes available that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making up missed classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Selma Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the best paralegal studies degree school is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Selma home. Paralegal education programs are provided in numerous lengths and formats. Various types of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you choose to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to evaluate each program and make your final selection. And with the ideal education you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Selma Alabama.