How to Find the Right Paralegal Studies School Near Trussville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Trussville AL and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students begin by trying to find schools within commuting distance of their Trussville residences. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you need to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school must be taken into consideration too. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your selection. But first, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill the same job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, 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 Trussville AL attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their routine activities may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really 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 number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Trussville AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may require just 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. Once you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might want to proceed and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Training
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more common and may be a good alternative for those looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to Trussville AL students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online programs can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the right choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Schools
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Trussville AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other significant aspects to think about also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose should be accredited by a respected 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 targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Trussville AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Trussville AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while attending school. They can also present a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Trussville AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Because laws vary from one state to another, it may be a good idea 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 create relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you want 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 might wish to initially consider those schools that are within the Trussville AL region.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be accessible to help reduce some of the expense, so don't forget to talk to the school's financial aid department to see what is offered in Trussville AL. Naturally if you choose to attend an online school, some of these added costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Trussville AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you choose makes available that option. Last, inquire what the process is for making-up classes missed because of work, illness or family obligations.
Enroll in the Best Trussville Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the best paralegal studies certificate program is an essential first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Trussville home. Paralegal education programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Several kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you decide to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to review each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the right education you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Trussville Alabama.