How to Pick the Right Paralegal Program Near Tuskegee Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Tuskegee AL and begin your journey that will lead to a satisfying profession in legal services. However, it's important that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic choices are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students begin by looking for schools within driving range of their Tuskegee homes. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you must take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program must be considered too. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your choice. But first, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both fill comparable job roles and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Tuskegee AL attorneys with a wide range of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is typically 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 code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their routine tasks might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, 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 Tuskegee AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve just six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. After you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly regarded 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 cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Schools
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more common and can be an excellent option for those looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to Tuskegee AL students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the right option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Tuskegee AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other important factors to think about as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Tuskegee AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often 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 contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school 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 rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Tuskegee AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also present an avenue for students to start developing contacts within the Tuskegee AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Since laws differ among states, it might be advantageous to select a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. Also, it will be important to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to initially investigate those schools that are within the Tuskegee AL region.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential received and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be available to help minimize part of the expense, so be sure to check with the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Tuskegee AL. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these added costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Tuskegee AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you select offers that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making up classes missed due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Tuskegee Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the ideal legal assistant degree school is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Tuskegee residence. Paralegal training programs are offered in numerous formats and lengths. Several types of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you decide to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to review each school and make your final selection. And with the right training you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Tuskegee Alabama.