How to Select a Paralegal Degree Program near Eight Mile Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Eight Mile AL and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding profession in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you locate the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic choices are being offered, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students start by searching for schools within driving range of their Eight Mile homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program ought to be taken into account too. Later on in this post we will cover a list of questions that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your selection. But first, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both fill the same job positions and responsibilities, 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 paralegals and legal assistants assist Eight Mile AL attorneys with a wide range of job duties, 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 are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their daily activities can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep 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 involved and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training 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 requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Eight Mile AL is by earning a certificate, which may take as little as 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more expansive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. Once you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might choose to continue and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected certifying organizations 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Points to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Eight Mile AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of 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 factors to think about also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you should be asking the programs 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 recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Eight Mile AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few Eight Mile AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Eight Mile AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, especially 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 secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary from one state to another, it might be a good idea to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to create relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the area where you choose to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Eight Mile AL region.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don’t forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be available to help minimize some of the expense, so be sure to check with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Eight Mile AL. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these additional expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Eight Mile AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in offers that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making up classes missed due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Schools
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more prevalent and can be a good option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online programs can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Eight Mile AL?
If you live near Eight Mile 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.
Eight Mile, Alabama
Eight Mile is an unincorporated community in Mobile County, Alabama, United States. The community is named for its distance from the city of Mobile. Part of it was annexed in the mid-20th century by the city of Prichard, Alabama.
In 2008 lightning struck a mercaptan storage tank at a Mobile Gas Service Corp. underground natural gas pipeline at the Whistler Junction gas transfer facility within the Eight Mile community. An estimated 500 US gallons (1,900 l; 420 imp gal) of Mercaptan, the chemical odorant added to natural gas to help detect leaks, spilled into the soil and groundwater for 6 months, according to Alabama state environmental officials. It has migrated to ponds and surfaced, polluting the community's air.
Beginning in 2011, residents in Eight Mile began complaining of an overwhelming mercaptan odor and associated health problems. They have concerns about the damage to their health from the chemical, and to property values from its persistent rotten egg smell. They appealed for a state and federal investigation.
Choose the Ideal Legal Assistant Degree Program near Eight Mile AL
Selecting the ideal paralegal educational program is a crucial first step to guarantee 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 participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Eight Mile home. Paralegal education programs are provided in numerous formats and lengths. Different types of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you choose to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to evaluate each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate training you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Eight Mile AL.
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