How to Choose the Right Paralegal Studies Training Program Near Wetumpka Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Wetumpka AL and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you find the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students start by searching for schools within traveling range of their Wetumpka residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you need to consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program must be taken into consideration as well. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your selection. But first, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill comparable job roles and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Wetumpka AL lawyers with a wide range of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day activities might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career as a paralegal in Wetumpka AL is by earning a certificate, which may involve as little as six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more expansive education and may be earned 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 as well. After you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Schools
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more common and can be a good alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to Wetumpka AL students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a reputable agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the right option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Wetumpka AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of 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 significant issues to consider also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a highly regarded 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 online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. 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 often accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, 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 practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, 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 office or other legal operation while attending school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Wetumpka AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing 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 substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ from state to state, it may be advantageous to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the community where you choose 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 might want to first consider those schools that are within the Wetumpka AL area.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don't forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be obtainable to help minimize some of the cost, so be sure to consult with the school's financial aid department to see what is offered in Wetumpka AL. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these additional costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. 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, make sure that the school you select offers that option. Last, inquire what the protocol is for making-up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Wetumpka Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the best paralegal training program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Wetumpka home. Paralegal education programs are offered in numerous formats and lengths. Several kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you elect to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to examine each program and make your final decision. And with the ideal education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Wetumpka Alabama.