How to Choose a Paralegal Degree Program near Wedowee Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Wedowee AL and start your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. However, it’s essential that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic options are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students begin by looking for schools within commuting range of their Wedowee residences. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school should be considered as well. Later in this post we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your choice. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold comparable job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Wedowee AL lawyers with a wide range of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but some of their regular activities can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
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 prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a legal assistant in Wedowee AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve as little as six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to continue and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few 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 school (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can start the process of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Wedowee AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other significant aspects to consider as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Wedowee AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically available only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Wedowee AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Wedowee AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws differ among states, it may be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the area where you want to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to initially look at those schools that are within the Wedowee AL region.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential received and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don’t forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be obtainable to help reduce some of the cost, so don’t forget to check with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Wedowee AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Wedowee AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you select provides that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making-up missed classes because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Schools
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more popular and can be a good option for students searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to individuals who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Wedowee AL?
If you live near Wedowee 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.
Wedowee is a town in Randolph County, Alabama, United States. At the 2010 census the population was 823, up from 818 in 2000. The small town is the county seat of Randolph County. It was initially incorporated in 1836, but its charter lapsed by the late 19th century. It was reincorporated in 1901.
Following Indian Removal of the Creek in the 1830s to Indian Territory west of the Mississippi River by the US government, this area was settled by European Americans. The town of Wedowee was designated as the county seat of Randolph County in 1835. The county was developed for the cultivation of cotton as a commodity crop, with labor primarily done by enslaved African Americans, many of whom had been sold to the Deep South from the Upper South in the domestic slave trade.
Since the late 20th century, Lake Wedowee was created by the impoundment of the Tallapoosa River. This has enhanced the tourist drawing power of the town. Also known as the R. L. Harris Reservoir, the lake draws thousands of visitors to Wedowee every year. 
Choose the Right Paralegal Training near Wedowee AL
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal training program is an important first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Wedowee residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Different types of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school 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, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you decide to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to evaluate each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal training you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Wedowee AL.
Other Alabama Locations That May Be Of Interest