How to Pick the Best Paralegal School Near Tuskegee Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Tuskegee AL and start your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. However, it's important that you find the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive 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 increasingly more academic options are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students begin by trying to find schools within traveling distance of their Tuskegee homes. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you need to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school should be considered as well. Later in this post we will cover 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 first, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold comparable job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Tuskegee AL lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, 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 are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their everyday activities may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and keep 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 involved and very demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Tuskegee AL is by earning a certificate, which may involve as little as 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can be acquired 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 as well. After you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your job opportunities, but help substantiate 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 program (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Certificates and Degrees
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more prevalent and can be a good alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to Tuskegee AL students who keep working while earning a degree. As an added advantage, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a respected agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the right option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Tuskegee AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most prospective 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 critical aspects to consider 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 researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Training 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 can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Tuskegee AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the Program's Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Tuskegee AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Tuskegee AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Because laws differ from one state to another, it may be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the community where you desire to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to first investigate those colleges that are within the Tuskegee AL region.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help reduce part of the cost, so make sure to contact the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Tuskegee AL. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, some of these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Tuskegee 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 provides that option. Last, inquire what the process is for making up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Tuskegee Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the ideal paralegal studies degree school is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered 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 Tuskegee home. Paralegal training programs are made available in various lengths and formats. Various kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you decide to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to examine each school and make your final decision. And with the right training you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Tuskegee Alabama.