How to Pick a Paralegal Program near Trussville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Trussville AL and begin your journey that will lead to a fulfilling career in legal services. However, it’s essential that you find the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational options are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students begin by looking for schools within driving range of their Trussville residences. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when choosing 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 too. Later on in this post we will review a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both fill comparable job positions and functions, just 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 Trussville AL attorneys with a diverse array of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their regular tasks can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a paralegal in Trussville AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can take just 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might want to proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help substantiate 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Trussville AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to know 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 also. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant factors to consider also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you should 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 should be accredited by a respected 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 focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Trussville AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few Trussville AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also offer a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Trussville AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools 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 large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary among states, it may be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to create relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the area where you want to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to initially look at those colleges that are within the Trussville AL region.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential received and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help reduce some of the expense, so make sure to check with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is available in Trussville AL. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, some of these supplementary costs, 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 only attend weekend or evening classes near Trussville AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you choose offers that option. Finally, find out what the process is for making up classes missed because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Programs
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more prevalent and can be an excellent option for individuals 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 advantage, online classes can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, 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 receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school 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 setting, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the right option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Trussville AL?
If you live near Trussville 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.
Trussville is a city in Jefferson and St. Clair counties in the State of Alabama. It is a suburb of Birmingham and part of the Birmingham-Hoover Metropolitan Statistical Area. Its estimated 2015 population was 21,023.
Trussville has been recognized as one of the most livable cities in the state and country. It was named one of the ten best towns in Alabama for young families, listed among the five best Birmingham suburbs, and included in Money magazine's list of 100 best places to live in America.
The first European settler to establish residence in the area was Warren Truss, who entered the area with his brothers and constructed a grist mill on the Cahaba River in 1821. Truss was a North Carolina man of English descent. Trussville remained an agricultural community until after the Civil War, when the Alabama-Chattanooga Railway was built through the city. By 1886 a blast furnace was built on what is now the site of the new Cahaba Elementary School. Trussville was listed as an incorporated community on the 1890 and 1900 U.S. Census rolls. At some point after 1900 until its reincorporation in 1947, it did not appear on census records.
Enroll in the Right Legal Assistant School near Trussville AL
Choosing the right paralegal training program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Trussville residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Various kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you elect to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to review each school and make your final selection. And with the right education you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Trussville AL.
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