How to Pick a Paralegal Studies Program near Phenix City Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Phenix City AL and begin your journey that will lead to a satisfying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you find the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic options are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students start by searching for schools within commuting distance of their Phenix City homes. Of those choices, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school must be taken into consideration as well. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your selection. But first, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational 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 fill comparable job roles and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Phenix City AL attorneys with a diverse array of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is typically billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their day-to-day tasks might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be involved 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 paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical duties more applicable 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 have the ability to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Phenix City AL is by earning a certificate, which can take as little as 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 program (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Points to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Phenix City AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other critical factors to consider as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also receive 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. Numerous Phenix City AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically available only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Phenix City AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Phenix City AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws differ from state to state, it may be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduating. Also, it will be important to create relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to first investigate those schools that are within the Phenix City AL area.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be accessible to help offset some of the expense, so make sure to consult with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Phenix City AL. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online school, some of these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Phenix City AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select makes available that option. Last, ask what the procedure is for making up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Training
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more common and may be an excellent option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to individuals who continue to work while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online schools can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a respected organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the right option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Phenix City AL?
If you live near Phenix City 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.
Phenix City, Alabama
Phenix City lies immediately west across the Chattahoochee River from much larger Columbus, Georgia. Sometimes called Hub City, Most of Phenix City is included in the Columbus Metropolitan Statistical Area, but a section is located in Lee County, and is therefore in the Auburn, Alabama Metropolitan Statistical Area. The entire city is part of the Columbus-Auburn-Opelika Combined Statistical Area.
Phenix City is located at 32°28′22″N 85°1′12″W / 32.47278°N 85.02000°W / 32.47278; -85.02000 (32.472822, -85.020121). It is the easternmost settlement in the state of Alabama as well as the Central Time Zone, but it and some other nearby areas unofficially observe Eastern Time, as these areas are part of the metropolitan area of the considerably larger city of Columbus, Georgia, which is in the Eastern Time Zone.
The climate in this area is characterized by relatively high temperatures and evenly distributed precipitation throughout the year. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Phenix City has a humid subtropical climate, abbreviated "Cfa" on climate maps.
Choose the Best Paralegal College near Phenix City AL
Selecting the best paralegal training program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Phenix City home. Paralegal education programs are offered in many formats and lengths. Several types of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you choose to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to review each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the right training you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Phenix City AL.
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