How to Find the Best Paralegal Studies Program Near Theodore Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Theodore AL and start your journey that will result in a satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you find the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational choices are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students start by looking for schools within commuting range of their Theodore residences. Of those options, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program should be taken into account also. Later on in this post we will review a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill comparable job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Theodore AL attorneys with a wide range of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their regular activities might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complex and very demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a paralegal in Theodore AL is by earning a certificate, which may involve just 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more extensive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. When you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will discuss the benefits 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.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Courses
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more common and can be a good alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to Theodore AL students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools 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 sure that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the right choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Schools
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Theodore AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many prospective 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 crucial issues to think about as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency 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 focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Theodore AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the School? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Theodore AL law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also present a means for students to start creating contacts within the Theodore AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Because laws differ from state to state, it may be advantageous to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to create 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 area where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to initially look at those schools that are within the Theodore AL region.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be available to help minimize some of the expense, so make sure to contact the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Theodore AL. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, some of these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit 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 Theodore AL, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you enroll in makes available that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making up classes missed due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Theodore Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the ideal paralegal studies degree school is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Theodore home. Paralegal education programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Various kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you choose to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to review each school and make your final selection. And with the right training you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Theodore Alabama.