How to Pick the Right Paralegal Studies Training 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 rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you locate the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational choices are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students begin by searching for schools within traveling range of their Selma homes. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you need to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be considered as well. Later on in this post we will review a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your choice. But first, let's have a look at 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 essentially both fill the same job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Selma AL lawyers with a wide range of job duties, 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. 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 typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their routine activities can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and very demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a paralegal in Selma AL is by earning a certificate, which may involve as little as 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Classes
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more prevalent and may be an excellent alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Selma AL students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the right choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Schools
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Selma AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other critical factors to consider also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a respected 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 training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Selma AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically offered only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call a few Selma AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also offer a means for students to begin creating contacts within the Selma AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it may be a good idea to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the community where you want to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially investigate those schools that are within the Selma AL region.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be available to help reduce some of the cost, so be sure to contact the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Selma AL. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Selma AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Last, find out what the process is for making up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Selma Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the right paralegal training school is a vital 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 privacy and comfort of your Selma home. Paralegal academic programs are provided in numerous formats and lengths. Several types of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you decide to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to evaluate each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate training you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Selma Alabama.