How to Choose the Best Paralegal Course Near Trussville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Trussville AL and start your journey that will result in a satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you find the best school so that you will receive the extensive 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 being offered, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students begin by searching for schools within traveling range of their Trussville homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are 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 school ought to be taken into account too. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both fill the same job positions 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 category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Trussville AL lawyers with a wide range of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. 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 may help with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but some of their day-to-day activities might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a paralegal in Trussville AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve 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 earned at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might want to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected certifying agencies 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 discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Courses
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more popular and can be a good option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to Trussville AL students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a reputable agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the right choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Trussville AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other critical issues to think about also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Trussville AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often available only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call a few Trussville AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while attending school. They can also offer a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the Trussville AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Because laws differ from state to state, it might be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the area where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to first look at those colleges that are within the Trussville AL region.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost depending on the credential earned and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be accessible to help offset part of the expense, so be sure to contact the school's financial aid department to see what is offered in Trussville AL. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these added costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Trussville AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you enroll in offers that option. Last, inquire what the protocol is for making up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Trussville Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal studies degree program is a vital first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered 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 training programs are offered in various lengths and formats. Different types of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you elect to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to examine each school and make your final decision. And with the right training you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Trussville Alabama.