How to Pick a Paralegal Degree Program near Muscle Shoals Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Muscle Shoals AL and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you locate the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students begin by trying to find schools within commuting range of their Muscle Shoals residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school must be taken into account as well. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your choice. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill comparable job roles and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Muscle Shoals AL lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their routine tasks may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and stay 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 involved and quite demanding. 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 proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical duties 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 preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs 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 prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career as a paralegal in Muscle Shoals AL is by earning a certificate, which can require just six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might want to proceed and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected 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 certificate or degree 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.
Things to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Muscle Shoals AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant aspects to consider also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over a few 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 Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Muscle Shoals AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking 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 a few Muscle Shoals AL law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the Muscle Shoals AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging 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 a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Because laws differ from one state to another, it may be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. Also, it will be important to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the area where you choose 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 may need to first consider those colleges that are within the Muscle Shoals AL region.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be accessible to help minimize some of the cost, so make sure to talk to the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Muscle Shoals AL. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, some of these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Muscle Shoals AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you enroll in provides that option. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Degrees
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more prevalent and can be a good option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to individuals who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Muscle Shoals AL?
If you live near Muscle Shoals 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.
Muscle Shoals, Alabama
Both the city and the Florence-Muscle Shoals Metropolitan Area (including four cities in Colbert and Lauderdale counties) are commonly called "the Shoals".Northwest Alabama Regional Airport serves the Shoals region, located in the northwest section of the state.
Since the 1960s, the city has been known for music – developing the "Muscle Shoals Sound", as local recording studios (including FAME Studios in the late 1950s and Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in 1969) produced hit records that shaped the history of popular music.
Due to its strategic location along the Tennessee River, Muscle Shoals played a key role in historic land disputes between Native Americans and Anglo-American settlers in the late 18th century and early 19th century.
Find the Ideal Legal Assistant Certificate Program near Muscle Shoals AL
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal degree program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Muscle Shoals home. Paralegal education programs are offered in various formats and lengths. Several kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of 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 review each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Muscle Shoals AL.
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