How to Choose the Right Paralegal Studies Program Near Wetumpka Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Wetumpka AL and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you locate the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students start by looking for schools within driving distance of their Wetumpka residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you ought to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program ought to be considered also. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your selection. But first, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both hold the same job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Wetumpka AL attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but some of their routine tasks can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be involved and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a paralegal in Wetumpka AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can take as little as six months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. When you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Training
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more prevalent and may be an excellent alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to Wetumpka AL students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for example 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 right option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior 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 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 many potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant issues to think about as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select should be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Wetumpka AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the Program's Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, 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, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Wetumpka AL law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also offer an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Wetumpka AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ among states, it might be a good idea to select a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to build relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to first consider those colleges that are within the Wetumpka AL region.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be obtainable to help reduce some of the expense, so don't forget to check with the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Wetumpka AL. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these added costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Wetumpka AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you choose provides that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Wetumpka Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the right legal assistant training program is an essential first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Wetumpka home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in numerous formats and lengths. Different types of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating 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 be able to review each school and make your final decision. And with the right education you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Wetumpka Alabama.