How to Pick the Right Paralegal Degree 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 satisfying career in legal services. However, it's important that you find the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students begin by looking for schools within traveling range of their Tuscumbia residences. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program should be considered too. Later on in this post we will cover a list of questions that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate 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 offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill comparable job positions 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 category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Tuscumbia AL attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help 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 just like attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their everyday activities may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing 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 authorized to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative duties more apropos 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 preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially 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 way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Tuscumbia AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve just 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more extensive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. When you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some 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 school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Programs
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more common and may be an excellent alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to Tuscumbia AL students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the ideal option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Tuscumbia AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other crucial aspects to consider also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance 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 also. Many Tuscumbia AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the School? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Tuscumbia AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also provide an avenue for students to start creating contacts within the Tuscumbia AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary among states, it might be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the area 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 wish to first investigate those schools that are within the Tuscumbia AL area.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be available to help reduce some of the expense, so be sure to contact the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Tuscumbia AL. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Tuscumbia AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you enroll in makes available that option. Finally, inquire what the procedure is for making up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Best Tuscumbia Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the ideal legal assistant certificate program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Tuscumbia home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Different kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you elect to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to examine each school and make your final selection. And with the appropriate education you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Tuscumbia Alabama.