How to Enroll in the Right Paralegal Training Program Near Wetumpka Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Wetumpka AL and start your journey that will result in a satisfying career in legal services. However, it's essential that you locate the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic choices are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students begin by searching for schools within traveling distance of their Wetumpka residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be considered also. Later in this post we will cover a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your choice. But first, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold the same job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Wetumpka AL attorneys with a wide range of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the attorney's. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their everyday activities may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Wetumpka AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may take as little as 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. When you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may want to proceed and earn a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Certificates and Degrees
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more popular and can be a good alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to Wetumpka AL students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online programs can often be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional setting, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the ideal option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Wetumpka AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many potential 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 crucial issues to research also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Wetumpka AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the School? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, 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 some Wetumpka 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 though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Wetumpka AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it might be a good idea to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you wish to practice. 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 want to first investigate those colleges that are within the Wetumpka AL region.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be accessible to help minimize some of the expense, so make sure to check with the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Wetumpka AL. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while getting their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Wetumpka AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in provides that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making up classes missed due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Wetumpka Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the right paralegal studies certificate program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Wetumpka home. Paralegal education programs are provided in numerous lengths and formats. Several kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you choose to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to examine each school and make your final decision. And with the appropriate training you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Wetumpka Alabama.