How to Choose a Paralegal Degree Program near Cottondale Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Cottondale AL and begin your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students start by trying to find schools within commuting distance of their Cottondale residences. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school should be taken into account too. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both fill comparable job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Cottondale AL attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist 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 the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their routine activities may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a paralegal in Cottondale AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve just 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. When you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and earn a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected certifying organizations 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 address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Cottondale AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other critical factors to consider also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Cottondale AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some Cottondale AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Bear 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 give students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also present a means for students to start creating contacts within the Cottondale AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it might be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially consider those colleges that are within the Cottondale AL area.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in cost based on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help offset part of the cost, so don’t forget to contact the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Cottondale AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Cottondale AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you choose makes available that option. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making-up classes missed due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Training
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more popular and may be an excellent option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to those who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online classes can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain 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 organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional environment, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Cottondale AL?
If you live near Cottondale 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.
Richard Price Rummonds
Richard Price Rummonds (also known as Richard-Gabriel Price Rummonds), one of the foremost handpress printers of the late twentieth century, is also an author, publisher, typographer, and historian of printing. His two books on nineteenth-century printing, Printing on the Iron Handpress and Nineteenth-Century Printing Practices and the Iron Handpress, comprehensively describe the history, operation and merits of the iron handpress.
Born on April 26, 1931, in Long Beach, California, Rummonds was raised in Sacramento, California. He attended Syracuse University in 1949–1950, in the School of Fine Arts, with the intention of majoring in set and costume design and the University of California at Berkeley intermittently between 1950 and 1954, where he majored in English and Creative Writing. During this period he was on the staff of Occident, the student literary magazine, of which he became the editor for the Spring 1954 issue.
Rummonds began printing in Quito, Ecuador in 1966, using the Plain Wrapper Press imprint. His first book was a selection of his own poems. The following year in Buenos Aires, Argentina, he printed a book of his short stories.
Enroll in the Ideal Legal Assistant Degree Program near Cottondale AL
Enrolling in the best paralegal educational program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Cottondale residence. Paralegal academic programs are provided in many lengths and formats. Various types of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you elect to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to assess each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal education you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Cottondale AL.
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