How to Select the Right Paralegal School Near Tuskegee Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Tuskegee AL and start your journey that will result in a fulfilling career in legal services. However, it's crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational choices are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students start by looking for schools within traveling distance of their Tuskegee homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you must take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program must be taken into account as well. Later 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 every one prior to making your decision. But first, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational choices 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 belong to a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Tuskegee AL attorneys with a wide range of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their daily tasks might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative duties more apropos 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 ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees 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 job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a paralegal in Tuskegee AL is by earning a certificate, which may take as little as six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your job opportunities, but help substantiate 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 school (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Schools
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more popular and may be a good option for students searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to Tuskegee AL students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online classes can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in more 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 program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the ideal option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices 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 Tuskegee AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other important aspects to research as well, such as 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 researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a highly regarded organization 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 focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Tuskegee AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often available only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call a few Tuskegee AL law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the Tuskegee AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement 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 in demand.
Where is the School Located? Because laws vary among states, it may be advantageous to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the area where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to first investigate those schools that are within the Tuskegee AL area.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential received and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help reduce part of the expense, so be sure to consult with the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Tuskegee AL. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these added expenses, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Tuskegee AL, make certain classes are available 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 classes missed because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Tuskegee Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the right legal assistant certificate program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Tuskegee residence. Paralegal training programs are made available in numerous lengths and formats. Several types of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you decide to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to examine each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate education you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Tuskegee Alabama.