How to Choose the Best Paralegal Certificate Program Near Talladega Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Talladega AL and start your journey that will result in a satisfying profession in legal services. However, it's essential that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational choices are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students begin by looking for schools within traveling range of their Talladega residences. Of those options, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be taken into account also. Later on in this post we will review a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your selection. But before we do, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold comparable job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Talladega AL attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but some of their daily tasks may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay 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 rather challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited 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 preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Talladega AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can require as little as six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more expansive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. Once you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected certifying agencies 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 program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Programs
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more prevalent and can be an excellent option for those looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to Talladega AL students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online classes can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the right option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Talladega AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other crucial aspects to think about also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Talladega AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the School's Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education 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 verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some Talladega AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the Talladega AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing 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 good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Since laws differ from one state to another, it might be beneficial to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the area where you choose to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to initially investigate those schools that are within the Talladega AL area.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help offset some of the expense, so make sure to talk to the school's financial aid department to see what is offered in Talladega AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these added costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Talladega AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you choose makes available that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making-up missed classes due to work, illness or family obligations.
Enroll in the Best Talladega Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Enrolling in the best paralegal studies certificate program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Talladega residence. Paralegal training programs are made available in numerous lengths and formats. Different types of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you elect to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to assess each program and make your final selection. And with the ideal education you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Talladega Alabama.