How to Find a Paralegal Studies Program near Tuskegee Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Tuskegee AL and start your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you find the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students start by looking for schools within commuting range of their Tuskegee residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school must be considered as well. Later on in this article we will review a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your selection. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially 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 are part of a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Tuskegee AL attorneys with a diverse array of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their regular activities can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complex and very challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Tuskegee AL is by earning a certificate, which can require just six months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. When you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your career 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 program (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Points to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Tuskegee AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial issues to research 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 considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose need to be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify 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. Many Tuskegee AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Tuskegee AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also provide a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Tuskegee AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it might be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be important to build relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you desire to practice. 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 might want to initially look at those colleges that are within the Tuskegee AL area.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in cost depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don’t forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help offset some of the cost, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid office to find out what is available in Tuskegee AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these additional expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Tuskegee AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you choose offers that option. Last, ask what the process is for making up missed classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Schools
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more available and can be a good option for students searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to those who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online classes can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a reputable agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Tuskegee AL?
If you live near Tuskegee 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.
Tuskegee (/tʌsˈkiːɡiː/) is a city in Macon County, Alabama, United States. It was founded and laid out in 1833 by General Thomas Simpson Woodward, a Creek War veteran under Andrew Jackson, and made the county seat that year. It was incorporated in 1843. It is also the largest city in Macon County. At the 2010 census the population was 9,865, down from 11,846 in 2000.
Tuskegee has been an important site in African-American history and highly influential in United States history since the 19th century. Before the American Civil War, the area was largely used as a cotton plantation, dependent on African-American slave labor. After the war, many freedmen continued to work on plantations in the rural area, which was devoted to agriculture. In 1881 the Tuskegee Normal School (now Tuskegee University, a historically black college) was founded by Lewis Adams, a former slave whose father, Jesse Adams, a slave owner, allowed him to be educated, and its first, founding principal was, Booker T. Washington who developed a national reputation and philanthropic network to support education of freedmen and their children.
In 1923, the Tuskegee Veterans Administration Medical Center was established here, initially for the estimated 300,000 African-American veterans of World War I in the South, when public facilities were racially segregated. Twenty-seven buildings were constructed on the 464-acre campus.
Find the Right Paralegal Certificate Program near Tuskegee AL
Selecting the ideal paralegal degree program is an important first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Tuskegee home. Paralegal training programs are made available in many formats and lengths. Different kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you elect to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to review each school and make your final selection. And with the ideal training you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Tuskegee AL.
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