How to Select a Paralegal School near Auburn Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Auburn AL and begin your journey that will lead to a satisfying profession in legal services. However, it’s important that you find the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students begin by looking for schools within traveling distance of their Auburn residences. Of those options, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you must take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be taken into account also. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your choice. But first, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional 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 fill the same job roles and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Auburn AL attorneys with a wide range of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, 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 practice could help with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their routine tasks might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a paralegal in Auburn AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may require as little as 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more extensive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. After you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might want to continue and earn a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Points to Ask Paralegal Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Auburn AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. 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 crucial aspects to consider also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick need to be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Auburn AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Auburn AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while still in school. They can also offer a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Auburn AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high 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 well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Because laws vary from one state to another, it might be beneficial to choose a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the area where you choose to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to initially consider those schools that are within the Auburn AL region.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential received and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be accessible to help offset part of the cost, so be sure to consult with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Auburn AL. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these added expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Auburn AL, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you choose offers that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making-up missed classes due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Training
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more prevalent and can be a good alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to individuals who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a reputable agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the right choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Auburn AL?
If you live near Auburn 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.
Auburn is a city in Lee County, Alabama, United States. It is the largest city in eastern Alabama with a 2016 population of 63,118. It is a principal city of the Auburn-Opelika Metropolitan Area. The Auburn-Opelika, AL MSA with a population of 158,991, along with the Columbus, GA-AL MSA and Tuskegee, Alabama, comprises the greater Columbus-Auburn-Opelika, GA-AL CSA, a region home to 501,649 residents.
Auburn is a historic college town and is the home of Auburn University. It is Alabama's fastest-growing metropolitan area and the nineteenth fastest-growing metro area in the United States since 1990. U.S. News ranked Auburn among its top ten list of best places to live in the United States for the year 2009. The city's unofficial nickname is “The Loveliest Village On The Plains,” taken from a line in the poem The Deserted Village by Oliver Goldsmith: “Sweet Auburn! loveliest village of the plain...”
Inhabited in antiquity by the Creek, the land on which Auburn sits was opened to settlement in 1832 with the Treaty of Cusseta. The first settlers arrived in the winter of 1836 from Harris County, Georgia. These settlers, led by Judge John J. Harper, intended to build a town that would be the religious and educational center for the area.
Find the Best Paralegal Certificate Program near Auburn AL
Choosing the best paralegal educational program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Auburn home. Paralegal training programs are offered in various formats and lengths. Several types of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, 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 pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you choose to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your final decision. And with the right training you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Auburn AL.
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