How to Find a Paralegal School near Pleasant Grove Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Pleasant Grove AL and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. However, it’s important that you locate the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational options are being offered, both at school and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students begin by searching for schools within commuting distance of their Pleasant Grove residences. Of those options, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program must be considered as well. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your decision. But first, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill the same job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Pleasant Grove AL attorneys with a diverse array 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 legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their day-to-day tasks can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be involved and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. 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 Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, 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 fastest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Pleasant Grove AL is by earning a certificate, which can involve just 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and may be earned 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. 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 practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Things to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Pleasant Grove AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can 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 aspects to consider as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Pleasant Grove AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you pick 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 contact some Pleasant Grove AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the Pleasant Grove AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Because laws vary among states, it might be beneficial to choose a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially look at those schools that are within the Pleasant Grove AL area.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential received and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be obtainable to help reduce part of the expense, so don’t forget to contact the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Pleasant Grove AL. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Pleasant Grove AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in offers that option. Last, find out what the process is for making up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Classes
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more common and can be a good option for those searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to those who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the right choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Pleasant Grove AL?
If you live near Pleasant Grove 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.
Pleasant Grove, Alabama
It was established in 1889, but incorporated as a city in January 1937. The incorporation came about by reason of a rather unusual circumstance. The town sits on land honeycombed by coal mines. For many years the residents had relied on water wells for their water supply. As years passed and more mining was done, Pleasant Grove found itself confronted with a problem. Residents would sometimes go to their well to draw water only to find there was none. The water had gone into the mines.
During the mid to late 30’s, the Federal Government had a program for financing the building of local water systems. In exploring the possibility of securing such funds, it was revealed that in order to secure such financing a community must be legally incorporated. At this time the incorporation became a reality.
The first appointed Mayor of Pleasant Grove was W.P. Stone. The city is governed by a mayor and five council members who serve four-year terms. Elections for city officials is held during the summer of each leap year with four-year terms beginning the first Monday in October. The area known as Pleasant Grove, Alabama was first homesteaded in September 1836. Pleasant Grove is in Jefferson County. Although no one seems to know when or exactly how the town came by its name, old documents indicate that at least part of this area was called Pleasant Grove as early as 1884. Pleasant Grove was made up of four communities which included Frog Pond, Lizard Ridge, Cottage Hill, and Pleasant Grove.
Choose the Best Legal Assistant College near Pleasant Grove AL
Selecting the ideal paralegal training program is a crucial first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Pleasant Grove home. Paralegal training programs are offered in various formats and lengths. Several kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you decide to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to assess each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the right training you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Pleasant Grove AL.
Other Alabama Locations That May Be Of Interest
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