How to Pick the Right Legal Assistant Program near Troy Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Troy AL and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it’s essential that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic options are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students start by trying to find schools within driving range of their Troy homes. Of those choices, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you ought to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school must be taken into consideration too. Later on in this article we will review a list of questions that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold comparable job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Troy AL lawyers with a wide range of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but some of their day-to-day tasks might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay 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 complicated and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly 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 take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Troy AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve as little as 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more extensive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue and earn a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
What to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can start the process of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Troy AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important issues to consider as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Troy AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Troy AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while still in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the Troy AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without help. Ask if the paralegal programs 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 confirms that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Because laws vary among states, it might be beneficial to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you want to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to initially consider those schools that are within the Troy AL region.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. 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 may be accessible to help reduce some of the cost, so don’t forget to contact the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Troy AL. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, some of these additional costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Troy 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 enroll in offers that option. Finally, inquire what the procedure is for making-up missed classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Training
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more common and may be a good alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to those who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online programs can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a reputable organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the ideal option for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Troy AL?
If you live near Troy 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.
Between the years of 1763 and 1783, the area where Troy sits was part of the colony of British West Florida. After 1783 the region fell under the jurisdiction of the newly created United States of America.
As of the 2010 census, the population was 18,033. The 2016 estimated population was 19,191. The City of Troy is considered one of the fastest growing cities in Alabama. Troy is a college town and is home to Troy University, the fourth-largest university in total enrollment in the state of Alabama.
For many centuries, the area in and around Troy was settled by different tribes of Native Americans, but became primarily known for its Muskogee Creek presence. Most Creek tribes lived along rivers or streams at that time. Near the Troy area, many Native Americans settled around the Conecuh River and the Pea River.
Schools With Paralegal Programs Troy AL
Selecting the right paralegal training school is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about Schools With Paralegal Programs. But as we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Troy residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in numerous formats and lengths. Various types of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you decide to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to examine each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Troy AL.
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