How to Choose a Paralegal Program near Graysville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Graysville AL and begin your journey that will result in a satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you locate the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational choices are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students begin by searching for schools within traveling range of their Graysville residences. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program must be considered also. Later in this post we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold the same job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Graysville AL lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, 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 firm could assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their regular tasks may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases 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 prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Graysville AL is by earning a certificate, which can require just 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. When you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Graysville AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other significant aspects to think about also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency 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 online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Graysville AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are often offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few Graysville AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the Graysville AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Since laws differ from state to state, it may be beneficial to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the area where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to initially consider those colleges that are within the Graysville AL area.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. However, 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 as well. Financial assistance might be available to help minimize part of the expense, so make sure to check with the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Graysville AL. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Graysville AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in provides that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making-up missed classes because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Training
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more popular and may be a good option for those searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to those who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the right option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Graysville AL?
If you live near Graysville 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.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, this city was called Gin Town. Because it had the only cotton gin for miles around, the community grew. It incorporated as Graysville initially in 1897. As the town grew, the need for businesses and houses of worship grew as well. One street over from this site, the Union Church was established in the early 1900s. All people of all denominations met and worshiped there as it was the only church for miles around. In 1927, the town charter was revoked on the grounds of "inactivity."
This city was reincorporated on November 17, 1945. The first meeting of the town council took place at the old school house on January 16, 1946. Later that year, the original city council established the Graysville Water Works system. In 1949, the city council established the Graysville Gas Board which eventually became the Graysville Municipal Gas System. During the 1950s and 1960s, the local coal mines and steel mills attracted families from all over Alabama. As a result of this growth, Graysville established the City’s first series of home developments and subdivisions. During the 1980s and 1990s, Graysville expanded its city limits by annexing multiple acres in what was then unincorporated in Jefferson County.
Graysville is located at 33°37′37″N 86°57′44″W / 33.62694°N 86.96222°W / 33.62694; -86.96222 (33.626955, -86.962255). According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 6.3 square miles (16 km2), all land.
Choose the Ideal Legal Assistant Training near Graysville AL
Choosing the ideal paralegal degree program is an important first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Graysville residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in various formats and lengths. Several kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you elect to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your final decision. And with the ideal education you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Graysville AL.
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