How to Choose the Right Paralegal Degree Program Near Theodore Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Theodore AL and start your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. However, it's essential that you find the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students begin by searching for schools within commuting range of their Theodore homes. Of those choices, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program must be taken into account too. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your decision. But before we do, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold comparable job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants 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 duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their everyday tasks may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically 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 quickest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Theodore AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve just 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and may be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. After you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Schools
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more available and may be a good alternative for those looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Theodore AL students who keep working while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a respected organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the ideal choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Theodore AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other critical issues to research also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Theodore AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the Program's Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few Theodore AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while still in school. They can also present an avenue for students to start developing contacts within the Theodore AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are evaluating provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid 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 students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ from state to state, it might be a good idea to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Theodore AL area.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price based 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 add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be accessible to help offset part of the expense, so be sure to contact the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Theodore AL. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, some of these added costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Theodore AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you choose offers that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making-up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Theodore Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the ideal paralegal degree program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Theodore residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in numerous lengths and formats. Several types of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you decide to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to examine each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the right education you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Theodore Alabama.