How to Pick a Paralegal School near Albertville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Albertville AL and start your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it’s important that you locate the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational options are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students start by looking for schools within traveling range of their Albertville residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you ought to take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school must be taken into account too. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you ought 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 exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional options 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, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Albertville 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 duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their regular tasks may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able 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 basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Albertville AL is by earning a certificate, which can involve just 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. When 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 can not only help increase your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
What to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Albertville AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other significant issues to think about as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several 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 choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Albertville AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will need 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, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some Albertville AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while attending school. They can also present a means for students to begin creating contacts within the Albertville AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without support. 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 sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it might be a good idea to select a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduating. In addition, it will be important to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge 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 Albertville AL region.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be accessible to help offset part of the cost, so be sure to contact the school’s financial aid office to find out what is available in Albertville AL. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Albertville AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you choose makes available that option. Last, ask what the procedure is for making up missed classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Programs
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more available and may be a good alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a respected organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Albertville AL?
If you live near Albertville 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.
The area which today includes Albertville was inhabited by the Cherokee Indians until their removal to Oklahoma in the 1830s. It was, however, near the territory of the Creek nation, and several major trails which afforded communication (or military action) between the two nations crossed the area. It is believed to have been crossed by Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto during his expeditions in 1540.
The first non-indigenous settlement in what is today Albertville began in the 1850s, and the settlement was named for Thomas A. Albert, an early settler who moved from Georgia and was a town leader until his death in 1876. The city was incorporated in 1891. A post office was established in 1910.
At about 4:10 p.m. on April 24, 1908, the city was virtually wiped out by a tornado that became commonly called "The Great Cyclone," or "The Cyclone of 1908." The storm is believed to have killed 35 people across northeastern Alabama, including 15 in Albertville. Relief was largely delivered by railroad, particularly from the nearby city of Gadsden. Trains from Gadsden transported doctors, nurses, and the Queen City Guards, the Alabama militia company based in Gadsden. The commander of the latter, future Gadsden mayor and Col. R.A. Mitchell, reported in a dispatch to Governor B.B. Comer:
Find the Best Paralegal Training near Albertville AL
Enrolling in the best paralegal degree program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Albertville residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in numerous formats and lengths. Various types of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you elect to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to review each program and make your final decision. And with the appropriate education you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Albertville AL.
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