How to Pick a Paralegal Training Program near Alexander City Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Alexander City AL and begin your journey that will lead to a fulfilling career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you find the ideal 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 more and more academic choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students begin by searching for schools within commuting distance of their Alexander City homes. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you ought to take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program must be considered as well. Later on in this post we will review a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your decision. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold comparable 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 different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Alexander City AL attorneys with a wide range of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day activities may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Alexander City AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can require as little as six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. 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 program (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Points to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Alexander City AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other critical aspects to research also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose should be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Alexander City AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call a few Alexander City AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while attending school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Alexander City AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without support. Ask 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 substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ among states, it might be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the area where you wish to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially look at those colleges that are within the Alexander City AL area.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be available to help minimize part of the cost, so don’t forget to check with the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Alexander City AL. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while obtaining their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Alexander City AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you select offers that option. Last, find out what the process is for making-up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Classes
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more popular and can be a good alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to individuals who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. 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 could be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Alexander City AL?
If you live near Alexander City 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.
Alexander City, Alabama
Alexander City, known to locals as "Alex City", is a city in Tallapoosa County, Alabama, United States, with a population of some 14,875. It is known for Lake Martin with its 750 miles (1,210 km) of wooded shoreline and 44,000 acres (18,000 ha) of water. Lake Martin stands on the Tallapoosa River and offers boating, swimming, fishing, golfing, and camping. Many neighborhoods and luxury homes are located on the lake.
Alexander City was incorporated in 1872 as Youngsville, after its founder James Young. In 1873, the Savannah and Memphis Railroad came to the city. The city was renamed in honor of the railroad's President Edward Porter Alexander, hero of the Battle of Gettysburg for the Confederate States.
On June 13, 1902, at 1 pm, a fire broke out in the Alexander City Machine shop and destroyed much of the town. At the time, Alexander City did not have a water system and all buildings, including the telegraph office, post office and three banks were burned.
Choose the Ideal Paralegal Program near Alexander City AL
Selecting the ideal paralegal degree program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Alexander City residence. Paralegal academic programs are made available in various lengths and formats. Various kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you elect to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to evaluate each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the right education you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Alexander City AL.
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