How to Choose the Right Paralegal Program Near Troy Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Troy AL and begin your journey that will result in a satisfying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you locate the best school so that you will get the extensive 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 increasingly more academic choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students begin by searching for schools within traveling distance of their Troy residences. Of those options, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be taken into consideration too. Later on in this post we will cover a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your choice. But first, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both fill the same job roles and responsibilities, only 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 Troy AL lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they work. 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 practices, a paralegal's work is typically billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but some of their regular tasks might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career as a paralegal in Troy AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve as little as 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more expansive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. When you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected 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 address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Training
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more popular and can be a good alternative for students 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 obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, 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 caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the right option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Schools
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Troy AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other important 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 schools you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal 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 program, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Troy AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often available only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some Troy AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also provide an avenue for students to start establishing 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 upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Because laws vary among states, it might be a good idea to select a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to create relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially look at those colleges that are within the Troy AL region.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential received and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be available to help reduce some of the expense, so be sure to talk to the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Troy AL. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Troy AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you enroll in provides that option. Last, ask what the process is for making-up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Right Troy Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the ideal paralegal studies training program is an important first step toward your success in the rewarding 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 Troy home. Paralegal education programs are made available in many formats and lengths. Different kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program 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 wisely. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you elect to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to examine each program and make your final selection. And with the right education you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Troy Alabama.