How to Pick the Right Paralegal Studies Certificate Program Near Trussville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Trussville AL and start your journey that will lead to a fulfilling career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you locate the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students begin by looking for schools within driving range of their Trussville residences. Of those options, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program ought to be considered as well. Later on in this article we will review a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your decision. But before we do, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold the same job roles and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Trussville AL lawyers with a wide range of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their routine activities might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers 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 job of a paralegal can be complex and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited 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 ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially 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 way to start your career as a paralegal in Trussville AL is by earning a certificate, which can require as little as 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. After you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded 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 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.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Certificates and Degrees
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more available and can be an excellent option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to Trussville AL students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a reputable organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the right option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Trussville AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other important aspects to research also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a highly regarded organization 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 learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Trussville AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually offered only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the School? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some Trussville AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Trussville AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Because laws vary among states, it may be a good idea to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to create relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the community where you choose to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to first investigate those schools that are within the Trussville AL region.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential received and the length of training provided. 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 may be available to help reduce some of the cost, so don't forget to talk to the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Trussville AL. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these additional costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Trussville AL, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you choose makes available that option. Last, ask what the process is for making up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Trussville Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the best paralegal certificate program is an essential first step toward 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 privacy and comfort of your Trussville home. Paralegal training programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Different types of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you choose to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to evaluate each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate education you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Trussville Alabama.