How to Pick the Best Paralegal Course Near Theodore Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Theodore AL and begin your journey that will result in a satisfying profession in legal services. However, it's crucial that you locate the best school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students begin by trying to find schools within traveling distance of their Theodore residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school need to be taken into consideration also. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold comparable job positions and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Theodore AL attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their daily activities may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be involved and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career as a paralegal in Theodore AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve just 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be acquired at many 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 obtained either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Programs
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more common and may be a good option for those looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to Theodore AL students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a reputable organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and conventional environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the right choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Theodore AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other crucial aspects to think about as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency 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 focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Theodore AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call a few Theodore AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what 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 Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while still in school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the Theodore AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Because laws differ among states, it might be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduating. In addition, it will be important to establish relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially look at those schools that are within the Theodore AL area.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help offset part of the cost, so make sure to talk to the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Theodore AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, some of these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Theodore AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in offers that option. Last, inquire what the protocol is for making-up classes missed because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Theodore Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the right paralegal studies training school is an essential first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Theodore home. Paralegal education programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Several types of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you decide to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to assess each program and make your final decision. And with the right education you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Theodore Alabama.