How to Choose a Paralegal Certificate Program near Union Springs Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Union Springs AL and start your journey that will lead to a fulfilling career in legal services. However, it’s essential that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational choices are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students begin by trying to find schools within driving distance of their Union Springs residences. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you ought to consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program must be taken into account also. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your selection. But first, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill comparable job roles and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Union Springs AL attorneys with a wide range of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their daily tasks can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training 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 educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Union Springs AL is by earning a certificate, which can take as little as 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more expansive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. After you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might choose to continue and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded certifying organizations 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will discuss the advantages 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.
What to Ask Paralegal Schools
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can start the process of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Union Springs AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many 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 crucial issues to research as well, such as 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 investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Union Springs AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are often available only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no previous experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing 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 call a few Union Springs AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while still in school. They can also offer a means for students to start creating contacts within the Union Springs AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary from state to state, it might be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the area where you choose to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially consider those colleges that are within the Union Springs AL region.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential received and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help offset some of the expense, so don’t forget to consult with the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Union Springs AL. Naturally if you opt 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 keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Union Springs AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you choose makes available that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making-up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Degrees
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more available and may be a good option for those looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to individuals who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online schools can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss 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 certain that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a reputable agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the right choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Union Springs AL?
If you live near Union Springs 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.
Union Springs, Alabama
The area that became Union Springs was first settled by white men after the Creek Indian removal of the 1830s. Twenty-seven springs watered the land, giving rise to the name of Union Springs. The city was incorporated on January 13, 1844. When Bullock County was formed in 1866, voters selected Union Springs as the county seat.
Union Springs is located in southeastern Alabama near the center of Bullock County at 32°8'24.407" North, 85°42'46.094" West (32.140113, -85.712804). The source of the Conecuh River is within the city limits.
The city is located at the intersection of U.S. Route 82 and U.S. Route 29. Route 82 leads east 40 miles (64 km) to Eufaula and northwest 46 miles (74 km) to Montgomery, the state capital. Route 29 leads north 23 miles (37 km) to Tuskegee and southwest 40 miles (64 km) to Troy.
Choose the Best Legal Assistant School near Union Springs AL
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal educational program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Union Springs home. Paralegal training programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Several types of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you elect to obtain your training 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 selection. And with the right education you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Union Springs AL.
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