How to Pick the Right Paralegal Studies School near Auburn Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Auburn AL and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you find the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational options are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students begin by trying to find schools within traveling range of their Auburn homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be taken into account as well. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your choice. But first, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both fill the same job roles and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Auburn AL attorneys with a diverse array of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their day-to-day activities can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complex and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability 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 prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career as a paralegal in Auburn AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve 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 many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. Once you have obtained 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 practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Things to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Auburn AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other important factors to think about also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you need to be asking the schools 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 program and school that you choose should be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency 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 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 show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Auburn AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? 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 previous work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few Auburn AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Auburn AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary among states, it might be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the area where you wish 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 first look at those schools that are within the Auburn AL region.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential received and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help offset some of the cost, so be sure to consult with the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Auburn AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these additional expenses, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Auburn 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 choose offers that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making up classes missed because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Programs
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more available and may be a good alternative for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to individuals who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a reputable agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Auburn AL?
If you live near Auburn Alabama or perhaps 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 2018 population of 65,738. 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.
Legal Assistant Online Courses Auburn AL
Choosing the best legal assistant degree school is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about Legal Assistant Online Courses. But as we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Auburn residence. Paralegal training programs are made available in various lengths and formats. Different kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you elect to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to review each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the right training you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Auburn AL.
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