How to Select the Right Paralegal Program Near Troy Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Troy AL and start your journey that will result in a fulfilling career in legal services. However, it's important that you find the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students start by trying to find schools within commuting distance of their Troy homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program must be taken into consideration as well. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your selection. But before we do, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold the same job positions and functions, just 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 classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Troy AL attorneys with a wide range of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but some of their routine activities might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a legal assistant in Troy AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may take just 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more extensive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some 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 discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Classes
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more prevalent and may be an excellent alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to Troy AL students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an added advantage, online programs can often be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the right option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Troy AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other important aspects to consider as well, including 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 considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Troy AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Troy AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while still in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to start developing contacts within the Troy AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will most likely 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 assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it may be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduating. In addition, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the community where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to first look at those colleges that are within the Troy AL area.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be accessible to help reduce part of the expense, so don't forget to consult with the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Troy AL. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these additional costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Troy AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you select provides that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Right Troy Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the best legal assistant degree program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Troy residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Different kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you elect to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to review each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the right training you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Troy Alabama.