How to Pick a Paralegal Training Program near Brewton Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Brewton AL and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying profession in legal services. However, it’s important that you find the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students start by trying to find schools within driving distance of their Brewton residences. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you ought to consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program must be taken into consideration too. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your choice. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold the same job positions and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Brewton AL attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their routine activities may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complex and very demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Brewton AL is by earning a certificate, which may involve as little as six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. After you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your career opportunities, but help substantiate 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Things to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Brewton AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly 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 already discussed, there are other important aspects to consider also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a recognized organization 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 certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Brewton AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some Brewton AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also offer a means for students to start establishing contacts within the Brewton AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary from state to state, it may be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. Also, it will be important to establish relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the area where you desire 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 wish to initially consider those colleges that are within the Brewton AL area.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential received and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be accessible to help minimize part of the cost, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Brewton AL. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these added expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Brewton AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you select makes available that option. Last, inquire what the process is for making-up missed classes due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Degrees
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more prevalent and can be a good alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to those who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online schools can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the right choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Brewton AL?
If you live near Brewton 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.
Brewton is a city in Escambia County, Alabama, United States. At the 2010 census, the population was 5,408. The city is the county seat of Escambia County. Brewton is located in south central Alabama, just north of the Florida Panhandle.
In May 1861, the city of Brewton began as a train station under Edmund Troupe Bruton. The settlement was originally known as Newport when barges made runs to and from Pensacola, Florida on Murder Creek and Burnt Corn Creek before the installation of rail.
During the Civil War rail lines were severed, and small lumber mills were damaged or destroyed. However, after the war those who returned or arrived rebuilt the Brewton economy, began a school, and established small businesses. Into the 1870s a new European demand for lumber stimulated the founding of numerous timber and lumber operations. The Conecuh-Escambia river system became a timber artery to the Gulf.
Select the Ideal Legal Assistant Certificate Program near Brewton AL
Choosing the right paralegal training program is a vital 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 on campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Brewton residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in numerous formats and lengths. Various kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you elect to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to review each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the right education you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Brewton AL.
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