How to Pick the Right Paralegal Studies Program Near Talladega Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Talladega AL and start your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it's important that you locate the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational options are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students start by trying to find schools within commuting range of their Talladega residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program ought to be taken into consideration too. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your decision. But before we do, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill the same job positions and responsibilities, just 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 paralegals and legal assistants assist Talladega AL lawyers with a wide range of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might 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 attorney's. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their regular tasks can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be involved and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
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 academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Talladega AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may require as little as 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more expansive education and may be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and earn a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few 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 discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Certificates and Degrees
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more common and may be an excellent option for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Talladega AL students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online classes can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in more 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 thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the ideal option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Talladega AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other critical factors to research also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. 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 Talladega AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically offered only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Talladega AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the Talladega AL legal field. 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 probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Since laws vary among states, it may be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the community 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 might wish to first consider those colleges that are within the Talladega AL area.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be available to help reduce part of the expense, so be sure to talk to the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Talladega AL. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these added costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Talladega AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you choose makes available that option. Last, ask what the process is for making-up classes missed because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Talladega Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Enrolling in the best legal assistant degree school is an important first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Talladega residence. Paralegal academic programs are made available in many formats and lengths. Several kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you elect to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to assess each program and make your final decision. And with the right training you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Talladega Alabama.