How to Pick the Right Paralegal Studies Certificate Program Near Sylacauga Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Sylacauga AL and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you locate the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students start by looking for schools within commuting distance of their Sylacauga residences. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be considered also. Later in this article we will review a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your selection. But first, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold comparable job positions and responsibilities, just 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 classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Sylacauga AL lawyers with a wide variety of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. 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 might help with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their regular activities might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and very demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, 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 fastest means to start your career as a legal assistant in Sylacauga AL is by earning a certificate, which may take just six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. After you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. 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 program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Schools
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more popular and can be a good alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Sylacauga AL students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Sylacauga AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other critical aspects to consider also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Sylacauga AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the Program's Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber 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 rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some Sylacauga AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the Sylacauga AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws differ among states, it might be beneficial to select a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire 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 reside outside of their districts. So you may need to initially investigate those schools that are within the Sylacauga AL area.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential received and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be available to help minimize part of the expense, so don't forget to talk to the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Sylacauga AL. Naturally if you choose to attend an online school, some of these added expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Sylacauga AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you choose provides that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making up classes missed due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Best Sylacauga Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the ideal paralegal studies degree school is an important first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered 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 Sylacauga residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Several kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But no matter how you elect to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to assess each school and make your final selection. And with the right training you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Sylacauga Alabama.