How to Select a Paralegal Degree Program near Walnut Grove Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Walnut Grove AL and start your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. However, it’s important that you find the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students start by trying to find schools within traveling range of their Walnut Grove homes. Of those choices, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program must be taken into account too. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your selection. But first, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold the same job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Walnut Grove AL attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is typically billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their day-to-day activities can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a legal assistant in Walnut Grove AL is by earning a certificate, which can involve just 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. After you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Walnut Grove AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must learn 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 most 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 critical aspects to think about as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on 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 as well. Many Walnut Grove AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Walnut Grove AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide 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 means for students to start establishing contacts within the Walnut Grove AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary among states, it might be a good idea to select a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the area where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to first investigate those colleges that are within the Walnut Grove AL area.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost based on the credential received and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be accessible to help reduce some of the expense, so make sure to contact the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Walnut Grove AL. Naturally if you choose to attend an online school, some of these additional costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Walnut Grove AL, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in offers that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Classes
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more prevalent and may be an excellent option for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the right option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Walnut Grove AL?
If you live near Walnut 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.
Walnut Grove, Alabama
Walnut Grove is a town in Etowah County, Alabama, United States. It is part of the Gadsden Metropolitan Statistical Area. At the 2010 census the population was 698. From 1880 until the 1960 U.S. Census, with the exclusion of 1890 when no figure was reported, Walnut Grove had the distinction of being the least populated community wholly within Etowah County. It lost that distinction in 1970 to newly incorporated Ridgeville which has held the title since.
Walnut Grove was part of Blount County before it was included in Baine County (now Etowah) in 1866. Walnut Grove was settled by the Battles family in 1813, the Morton family, and the Carnes family (namesake of the Carnes Chapel area near the ghost town of Bennettsville off of US 278) in 1823. Around 1825, the town was known as "Thomas Crossroads", after landowner Jordan D. Thomas. In 1848, the town was named "Cornelius", after postmaster Harvey Cornelius. In 1849, it was renamed "Walnut Grove".
The first college preparatory school for males and females in northeast Alabama was established by act of Legislature in 1884. The Walnut Grove College ran for 15 years, and during the college's peak the town had grown to have 13 stores, including a drug store with a soda fountain. The Walnut Grove College closed in 1899 as high schools were being established in Etowah County.
Find the Right Paralegal College near Walnut Grove AL
Selecting the right paralegal training program is an essential first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Walnut Grove home. Paralegal academic programs are provided in many lengths and formats. Several kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact 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 best possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you choose to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to examine each program and make your final decision. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Walnut Grove AL.
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