How to Select the Right Paralegal Studies Course Near Tuscumbia Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Tuscumbia AL and start your journey that will result in a satisfying career in legal services. However, it's crucial that you locate the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic choices are becoming available, both at school and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students begin by looking for schools within commuting distance of their Tuscumbia residences. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you ought to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be taken into account as well. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your choice. But first, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold comparable 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 category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Tuscumbia AL attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, 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 could assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their day-to-day activities can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex 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 proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a paralegal in Tuscumbia AL is by earning a certificate, which can require 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 can be acquired at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some 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 program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Classes
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more common and may be a good option for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to Tuscumbia AL students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online schools can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, 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 quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Tuscumbia AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential 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 significant aspects to research as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a recognized 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 online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Tuscumbia AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals 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? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some Tuscumbia AL law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Tuscumbia AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid 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 highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Since laws differ among states, it might be a good idea to select a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the area where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to first investigate those schools that are within the Tuscumbia AL area.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential received and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be available to help minimize part of the cost, so don't forget to consult with the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Tuscumbia AL. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while obtaining their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Tuscumbia AL, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you select makes available that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Tuscumbia Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the right paralegal studies certificate school is an essential first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Tuscumbia residence. Paralegal academic programs are made available in various lengths and formats. Several types of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you decide 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 training you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Tuscumbia Alabama.