How to Select a Paralegal Certificate Program near Troy Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Troy AL and start your journey that will lead to a rewarding profession in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you locate the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students start by searching for schools within traveling range of their Troy residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school must be considered too. Later in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your choice. But first, let’s have 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 for the most part both hold comparable job roles and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Troy AL lawyers with a wide variety of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. 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 practice may help with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their everyday tasks can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be involved and quite challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a paralegal in Troy AL is by earning a certificate, which can require as little as six months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected 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 discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
What to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Troy AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other important aspects to consider as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency 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 targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Troy AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually available only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some Troy AL law offices 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 the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to start developing contacts within the Troy AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without support. Ask 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 substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ among states, it may be a good idea to choose a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. Also, it will be important to create relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to initially consider those colleges that are within the Troy AL area.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don’t forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be available to help offset some of the expense, so be sure to contact the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Troy AL. Of course if you opt to attend an online program, some of these additional costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Troy AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you choose makes available that option. Last, ask what the procedure is for making-up missed classes due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Degrees
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more available and may be a good alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to individuals who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Troy AL?
If you live near Troy 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.
Between the years of 1763 and 1783, the area where Troy sits was part of the colony of British West Florida. After 1783 the region fell under the jurisdiction of the newly created United States of America.
As of the 2010 census, the population was 18,033. The 2016 estimated population was 19,191. The City of Troy is considered one of the fastest growing cities in Alabama. Troy is a college town and is home to Troy University, the fourth-largest university in total enrollment in the state of Alabama.
For many centuries, the area in and around Troy was settled by different tribes of Native Americans, but became primarily known for its Muskogee Creek presence. Most Creek tribes lived along rivers or streams at that time. Near the Troy area, many Native Americans settled around the Conecuh River and the Pea River.
Choose the Right Paralegal College near Troy AL
Selecting the right paralegal training program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Troy home. Paralegal academic programs are made available in many formats and lengths. Several kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you choose to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the right education you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Troy AL.
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