How to Pick the Right Paralegal School Near Troy Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Troy AL and begin your journey that will result in a satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you find the best school so that you will get the extensive 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 a growing number of educational alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students begin by searching for schools within commuting range of their Troy homes. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school should be taken into account too. Later on in this article we will cover a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your selection. But first, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill comparable job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Troy 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 are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their everyday tasks might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical tasks 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, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Troy AL is by earning a certificate, which may require as little as six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and can be earned at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might want to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Certificates and Degrees
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more common and can be a good option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Troy AL students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online schools can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum 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 respected organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the right option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Troy AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other critical aspects to consider as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Troy AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically offered only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent 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 Troy AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the Troy AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it might be beneficial to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduating. In addition, it will be important to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the community where you desire to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to initially consider those colleges that are within the Troy AL area.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in cost based on the credential received and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don't forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help offset some of the expense, so be sure to contact the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Troy AL. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, some of these additional costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while obtaining their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Troy AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select offers that option. Last, inquire what the protocol is for making up missed classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Troy Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the ideal paralegal degree school is a crucial first step toward 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 Troy home. Paralegal training programs are provided in various lengths and formats. Different kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you decide to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to evaluate each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the right education you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Troy Alabama.