How to Select the Best Paralegal Course Near Sylacauga Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Sylacauga AL and begin your journey that will lead to a satisfying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you locate the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational options are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students start by trying to find schools within driving distance of their Sylacauga residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be taken into account too. Later on in this post we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your choice. But first, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals 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 classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Sylacauga AL lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their routine activities may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to take on 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 educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Sylacauga AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may require as little as 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more extensive education and may be earned at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. When you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected certifying organizations 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 benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Courses
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more prevalent and can be an excellent alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to Sylacauga AL students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the ideal choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Sylacauga AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other critical issues to think about also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose 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 online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. 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 typically accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the School? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some Sylacauga AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the Sylacauga AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal programs 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 substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary from one state to another, it may be a good idea to select a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the area where you want to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to first investigate those schools that are within the Sylacauga AL area.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be available to help offset part of the cost, so be sure to contact the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Sylacauga AL. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Sylacauga AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you select provides that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making-up missed classes due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Sylacauga Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the best paralegal degree school is a vital first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school 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. Various kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you decide to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to assess each program and make your final selection. And with the right training you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Sylacauga Alabama.