How to Choose a Paralegal Training Program near Carrollton Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Carrollton AL and begin your journey that will result in a satisfying profession in legal services. However, it’s important that you locate the best school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students start by looking for schools within driving distance of their Carrollton homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program should be taken into consideration too. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your choice. But first, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold the same job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Carrollton AL attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but some of their daily tasks can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably 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 begin your career as a paralegal in Carrollton AL is by earning a certificate, which may require just six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. Once you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded 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 address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Points to Ask Paralegal Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Carrollton AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. 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 previously covered, there are other significant issues to think about also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. 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 also. Many Carrollton AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no previous experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Carrollton AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also present a means for students to start creating contacts within the Carrollton AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws differ from state to state, it may be a good idea to select a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to cultivate 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 want to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to first look at those colleges that are within the Carrollton AL area.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost depending on the credential received and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be accessible to help reduce part of the expense, so be sure to consult with the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Carrollton AL. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these added expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Carrollton AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you select offers that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making up classes missed because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Schools
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more popular and may be an excellent alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to those who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online classes can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the right option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Carrollton AL?
If you live near Carrollton 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.
The Pickens County Courthouse in the center of Carrollton was erected in 1877. The first courthouse in Carrollton was burned on April 5, 1865 by troops of Union General John T. Croxton. A second courthouse was destroyed by a fire on November 16, 1876.
Incorporated in 1831, the town was named after Charles Carroll of Carrollton, Maryland, the only Roman Catholic and longest-living signer of the Declaration of Independence. A post office has been in operation at Carrollton since 1831.
As was typical, the county jail was located at the courthouse. The courthouse square was used frequently as a site for public lynchings by whites of African Americans, part of numerous efforts to suppress them during a time of high tensions as whites struggled for dominance. It was part of a program of intimidation and racial terrorism, with these murders frequent in the decades on either side of the turn of the 20th century. Among the numerous African Americans lynched in Carrollton was John Gibson, hanged on August 28, 1907. Pickens County had the fifth highest total of lynchings in Alabama, according to Lynching in America (2015, 3rd edition), published by the Equal Justice Initiative.
Enroll in the Ideal Paralegal Degree Program near Carrollton AL
Choosing the best paralegal educational 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 option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Carrollton home. Paralegal education programs are offered in various lengths and formats. Different kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you decide to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to review each program and make your final selection. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Carrollton AL.
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