How to Choose a Paralegal Degree Program near Laceys Spring Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Laceys Spring AL and start your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic choices are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students start by trying to find schools within traveling distance of their Laceys Spring residences. Of those choices, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be taken into consideration as well. Later on in this post we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your decision. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold the same job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Laceys Spring AL lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular 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 could help with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their daily activities may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- 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 preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a paralegal in Laceys Spring AL is by earning a certificate, which can take just 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. When you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may want to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some 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 address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Points to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Laceys Spring 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 if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other critical aspects to research as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over several 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 Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Laceys Spring AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some Laceys Spring AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the Laceys Spring AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary from one state to another, it may be a good idea to choose a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. Also, it will be important to establish relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to first investigate those schools that are within the Laceys Spring AL area.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the length of training provided. 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 as well. Financial assistance might be available to help offset some of the cost, so don’t forget to consult with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Laceys Spring AL. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Laceys Spring AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you select offers that option. Last, inquire what the process is for making up classes missed because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Training
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more common and can be an excellent alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to individuals who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online classes can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Laceys Spring AL?
If you live near Laceys Spring AL or perhaps you are considering attending classes in that area, following is some interesting and useful information regarding the location of your new school campus.
Lacey's Spring, Alabama
Lacey's Spring is an unincorporated community in northeastern Morgan County, Alabama, United States at the base of Brindlee Mountain. It is included in the Decatur Metropolitan Area, as well as the Huntsville-Decatur Combined Statistical Area.
Find the Ideal Legal Assistant Program near Laceys Spring AL
Choosing the ideal paralegal training program is a crucial first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Laceys Spring home. Paralegal training programs are provided in various formats and lengths. Several types of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you decide to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to review each school and make your final decision. And with the ideal education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Laceys Spring AL.
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