How to Pick the Best Paralegal Studies Training Program Near Tuskegee Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Tuskegee AL and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you locate the best school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students begin by looking for schools within commuting range of their Tuskegee homes. Of those options, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school need to be considered as well. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your choice. But first, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold comparable job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Tuskegee AL attorneys with a wide variety of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their regular activities might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and keep 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 rather demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Tuskegee AL is by earning a certificate, which may require just six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. 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 address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Certificates and Degrees
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more popular and may be a good alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to Tuskegee AL students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a reputable organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the ideal choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Tuskegee AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other significant aspects to research as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick 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 education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain 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 are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically available only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no previous work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking 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 contact some Tuskegee AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the Tuskegee AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Because laws vary from state to state, it might be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduation. Also, it will be important to establish relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to first consider those schools that are within the Tuskegee AL region.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be accessible to help reduce some of the cost, so make sure to consult with the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Tuskegee AL. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, some of these additional expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Tuskegee AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you select provides that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making up missed classes due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Tuskegee Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the right legal assistant degree program is an important first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Tuskegee residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in numerous lengths and formats. Different types of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you decide to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to review each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal education you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Tuskegee Alabama.