How to Enroll in the Right Paralegal Studies Certificate Program Near Tuskegee Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Tuskegee AL and begin your journey that will lead to a satisfying career 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 succeed. As you probably 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 at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students start by searching for schools within commuting range of their Tuskegee residences. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program should be taken into consideration also. Later on in this post we will review a list of questions that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold comparable job roles and functions, just with different titles. However, 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, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their routine tasks might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal advice and counsel 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 really are the right hand 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 volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we discussed earlier, 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 quickest way to start your career as a paralegal in Tuskegee AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can require as little as 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more expansive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and get a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Schools
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more available and can be an excellent option for those looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to Tuskegee AL students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can often be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced 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 education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are looking into 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 earning your certificate or degree online could be the right choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Tuskegee AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true when you include 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 commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other critical aspects to think about also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online training. 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 also. Numerous Tuskegee AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call a few Tuskegee AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also present a means for students to start creating contacts within the Tuskegee AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary among states, it might be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to build relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the area where you choose to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to first consider those schools that are within the Tuskegee AL area.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential received and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help offset part of the cost, so don't forget to check with the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Tuskegee AL. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, some of these additional expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while receiving their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Tuskegee AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making up missed classes because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Tuskegee Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the best paralegal studies training school is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Tuskegee residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in numerous lengths and formats. Different types of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you decide to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the right education you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Tuskegee Alabama.