How to Find a Paralegal School near Evergreen Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Evergreen AL and begin your journey that will result in a fulfilling career in legal services. However, it’s essential that you find the best school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students begin by looking for schools within driving range of their Evergreen homes. Of those options, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school need to be taken into account too. Later on in this post we will review a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your choice. But before we do, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional 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 fill the same job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Evergreen AL attorneys with a wide variety of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their routine tasks may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a paralegal in Evergreen AL is by earning a certificate, which can require as little as six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Things to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Evergreen AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many prospective 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 important aspects to think about also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a reputable 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 targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Evergreen AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no previous work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some Evergreen AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while attending school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the Evergreen AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement 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 highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Because laws differ from one state to another, it might be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the area where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to initially investigate those schools that are within the Evergreen AL area.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential earned and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be obtainable to help reduce part of the cost, so be sure to talk to the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Evergreen AL. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, some of these added costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Evergreen AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you select provides that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making-up classes missed due to work, illness or family obligations.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Classes
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more popular and may be an excellent option for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to those who keep working while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online schools can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum 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 looking into are accredited by a respected agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Evergreen AL?
If you live near Evergreen 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.
Evergreen, Conecuh County, Alabama
Early settlers to the area came from Georgia and South Carolina beginning in 1818. Evergreen was founded officially in 1819 when Revolutionary War veteran James Cosey and several other men settled within the present limits of the city. The Reverend Alexander Travis first called the town by its present name of Evergreen for the abundance of surrounding green foliage, plants, and ferns.
The former county seat of Sparta was burned in a federal raid during the Civil War. In 1866, the county seat was moved to Evergreen as it was more centrally located in the county. Evergreen was incorporated as a city on March 28, 1873.
In 1882, a tornado hit the city, destroying every building except for the Episcopal church. On November 7, 1895, fire destroyed every business and house located on the east side of the railroad. Five days later, fire destroyed every business and house on the west side. The Conecuh County Courthouse burned in 1868, 1875, 1885, and 1895.
Enroll in the Best Paralegal College near Evergreen AL
Enrolling in the right paralegal educational program is an important first step toward your success in the rewarding 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 Evergreen home. Paralegal academic programs are made available in many formats and lengths. Different kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you decide to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to evaluate each school and make your final decision. And with the right education you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Evergreen AL.
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