How to Select the Best Paralegal Studies School Near Troy Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Troy AL and start your journey that will lead to a fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you locate the best school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students begin by trying to find schools within traveling range of their Troy residences. Of those options, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you ought to consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program ought to be considered too. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your choice. But before we do, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill the same job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Troy AL lawyers with a wide range of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their regular activities may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative functions more apropos 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, 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. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Troy AL is by earning a certificate, which can involve as little as six months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more extensive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. When you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and earn a certification. Even though it is not a legal 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 organizations in the field 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 school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Programs
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more available and can be an excellent alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to Troy AL students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online classes can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a reputable agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the right choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Troy AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many prospective 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 crucial issues to consider also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over some 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 choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Troy AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program 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 verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call a few Troy AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also offer a means for students to start creating contacts within the Troy AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success 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 students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Because laws differ from one state to another, it might be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to create relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to initially consider those colleges that are within the Troy AL region.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. 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 also. Financial assistance might be available to help offset some of the cost, so don't forget to talk to the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Troy AL. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Troy AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you enroll in offers that option. Last, ask what the process is for making-up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Troy Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the ideal legal assistant certificate program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Troy home. Paralegal training programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Various types of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you choose to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to assess each program and make your final selection. And with the appropriate training you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Troy Alabama.