How to Select the Right Paralegal Studies Certificate Program Near Talladega Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Talladega AL and begin your journey that will result in a fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you locate the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students begin by trying to find schools within commuting distance of their Talladega homes. Of those alternatives, 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 factors you should take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program should be taken into consideration also. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your selection. But first, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both fill the same job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Talladega AL attorneys with a wide range of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their routine activities may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- 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 documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative functions more suited 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 ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Talladega AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can require as little as six months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. After you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Certificates and Degrees
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more available and may be a good option for those searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Talladega AL students who keep working while earning a degree. As an added advantage, online programs can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the right choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Talladega AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of 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 critical issues to research also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Talladega AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no previous experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some Talladega AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the Talladega AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it might be beneficial to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the community where you want to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to first look at those schools that are within the Talladega AL area.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be accessible to help reduce part of the cost, so don't forget to consult with the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Talladega AL. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Talladega AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making-up missed classes because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Talladega Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the ideal paralegal studies degree school is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Talladega residence. Paralegal training programs are offered in numerous formats and lengths. Various types of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you choose to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to examine each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the right education you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Talladega Alabama.