How to Enroll in the Best Paralegal Studies Certificate or Degree Program Near Trussville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Trussville AL and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. However, it's important that you find the best school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students begin by trying to find schools within driving distance of their Trussville homes. Of those options, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school should be taken into consideration also. Later on in this article we will review a list of questions that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your choice. But before we do, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill the same 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 are part of a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Trussville AL attorneys with a diverse array of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their day-to-day activities can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be involved and very challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients 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 educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Trussville AL is by earning a certificate, which may require as little as six months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. After you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will cover 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.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Classes
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more available and may be a good alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Trussville AL students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online programs can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the right option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Schools
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Trussville AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other crucial issues to research also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a respected organization 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 focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Trussville AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the Program's Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some Trussville AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also present a means for students to start creating contacts within the Trussville AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws vary among states, it might be beneficial to select a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to build relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to initially consider those schools that are within the Trussville AL region.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid 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 offered in Trussville AL. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online program, some of these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Trussville AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you select offers that option. Finally, inquire what the procedure is for making up classes missed due to work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Best Trussville Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the best legal assistant training program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Trussville home. Paralegal training programs are provided in many lengths and formats. Different types of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you choose to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to assess each program and make your final selection. And with the appropriate education you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Trussville Alabama.