How to Select a Paralegal Training Program near Kellyton Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Kellyton AL and start your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. However, it’s important that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students begin by looking for schools within commuting range of their Kellyton homes. Of those choices, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you need to consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program should be taken into consideration as well. Later on in this post we will review a list of questions that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your choice. But before we do, 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
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill comparable job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Kellyton AL attorneys with a wide range of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their daily activities can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and very demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to handle a much larger number of clients or cases 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. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a paralegal in Kellyton AL is by earning a certificate, which may require as little as 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Things to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can start the process of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Kellyton AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate 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 potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant issues to consider also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also obtain 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 get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Kellyton AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Kellyton AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also provide a means for students to begin creating contacts within the Kellyton AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws differ among states, it might be beneficial to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the community where you want 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 need to first investigate those schools that are within the Kellyton AL region.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be accessible to help offset part of the cost, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Kellyton AL. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Kellyton AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you choose makes available that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making up missed classes because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Degrees
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more common and can be a good option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to those who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a respected organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Kellyton AL?
If you live near Kellyton 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.
Find the Best Paralegal Program near Kellyton AL
Enrolling in the best paralegal degree program is an important first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Kellyton home. Paralegal training programs are provided in numerous lengths and formats. Several kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you decide to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to review each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the right training you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Kellyton AL.
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