How to Enroll in the Right Paralegal Degree Program Near Talladega Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Talladega AL and begin your journey that will lead to a fulfilling career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you find the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic choices are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students begin by looking for schools within traveling range of their Talladega residences. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you ought to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be taken into account as well. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your decision. But first, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold comparable job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Talladega AL attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is usually billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day activities might include:
- Investigating 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
- 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 duties, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. 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 restricted to clerical or administrative functions 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 preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to start your career as a paralegal in Talladega AL is by earning a certificate, which may require just six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. After you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. 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 address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Programs
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more prevalent and can be an excellent option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Talladega AL students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a respected organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the right option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Talladega AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many prospective 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 consider also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a recognized 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 targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will show 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. Also, financial aid and student loans are often available only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, including 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 Talladega AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program 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 a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Talladega AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ among states, it might be a good idea to select a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. Also, it will be important to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the community where you desire to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to initially consider those colleges that are within the Talladega AL region.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. Having said that, 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 assistance may be obtainable to help reduce part of the cost, so be sure to consult with the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Talladega AL. Of course if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Talladega AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in offers that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making-up missed classes because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Talladega Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the ideal paralegal studies certificate program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered 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 many lengths and formats. Several types of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you decide to obtain your education 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 ultimate selection. And with the right education you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Talladega Alabama.