How to Select the Best Paralegal Studies Training Program Near Tuscumbia Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Tuscumbia AL and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive 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 a growing number of academic alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students begin by searching for schools within driving distance of their Tuscumbia homes. Of those options, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you need to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be taken into account too. Later on in this post we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your decision. But before we do, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both fill comparable job positions and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Tuscumbia AL lawyers with a wide variety of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day activities might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be involved and quite challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really 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 handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a paralegal in Tuscumbia AL is by earning a certificate, which can involve just six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. When you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might choose to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected certifying organizations 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Courses
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more available and may be a good alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to Tuscumbia AL students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online classes can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program 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 formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the ideal option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Tuscumbia AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to 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 also. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other critical issues to think about as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select should be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Tuscumbia AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually available only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the School? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, 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 call some Tuscumbia AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also present a pathway for students to start creating contacts within the Tuscumbia AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Because laws vary among states, it might be a good idea to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduating. Also, it will be important to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the area where you want to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to first investigate those schools that are within the Tuscumbia AL region.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. Having said that, 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 assistance may be accessible to help reduce part of the expense, so be sure to contact the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Tuscumbia AL. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Tuscumbia 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. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making-up missed classes due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Tuscumbia Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the best paralegal studies training 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 on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Tuscumbia home. Paralegal education programs are made available in many formats and lengths. Different types of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you decide to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to examine each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the right training you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Tuscumbia Alabama.