How to Choose a Paralegal Studies Program near Lanett Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Lanett AL and begin your journey that will lead to a fulfilling career in legal services. However, it’s essential that you locate the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational choices are being offered, both at school and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students begin by trying to find schools within commuting range of their Lanett residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you ought to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school should be considered also. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically 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 legal assistants and paralegals help Lanett AL lawyers with a wide range of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents 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 carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but some of their daily activities may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and rather demanding. 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 they are not restricted to administrative or clerical tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Lanett AL is by earning a certificate, which may involve just 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Things to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Lanett AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many potential 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 issues to think about as well, such as the reputation and accreditation 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 thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also get 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 obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Lanett AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually available 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 particular importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you select is accredited is a good 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 Lanett AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also present a means for students to start creating contacts within the Lanett AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws differ among states, it may be a good idea to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to create relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the area where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to first consider those colleges that are within the Lanett AL region.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be accessible to help minimize part of the cost, so be sure to contact the school’s financial aid office to find out what is available in Lanett AL. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, some of these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Lanett AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you select provides that option. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making-up classes missed because of work, illness or family obligations.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Degrees
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more available and may be an excellent option for those looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to students who keep working while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a respected agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the right option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Lanett AL?
If you live near Lanett 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.
Lanett is a city in Chambers County, Alabama, United States. At the 2010 census the population was 6,468, down from 7,897 in 2000. Lanett, originally called Bluffton, is located in eastern Alabama, on the Chattahoochee River, southwest of Atlanta. The city's name is derived from Lafayette Lanier and Theodore Bennett, founders of the West Point Manufacturing Company.
Lanett is located on the eastern edge of Chambers County at 32°51'48.326" North, 85°11'58.862" West (32.863424, -85.199684). Its eastern boundary is the Alabama–Georgia state line, with the town of West Point, Georgia, bordering Lanett to the east. Interstate 85 forms the southeast boundary of Lanett, with the city of Valley, Alabama, on the other side of the highway. The unincorporated community of Huguley is along Lanett's southwest border.
The Chattahoochee River forms the state line and eastern boundary of Lanett from I-85 north to the downtown area, at which point the state line turns north-northwest and becomes a land boundary between Lanett and West Point, Georgia.
Enroll in the Right Legal Assistant Degree Program near Lanett AL
Selecting the right 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 option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Lanett home. Paralegal education programs are made available in numerous lengths and formats. Various kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact 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 fascinating profession. But regardless of how you choose to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to examine each school and make your final decision. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Lanett AL.
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