How to Choose a Paralegal Degree Program near Attalla Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Attalla AL and start your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. However, it’s important that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students begin by looking for schools within driving range of their Attalla residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program should be taken into account as well. Later in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your decision. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill the same job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Attalla AL lawyers with a wide range of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their everyday activities might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually 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 fastest means to launch your career as a paralegal in Attalla AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may require as little as 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. When you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded 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 school (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important initial 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 understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Attalla AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important aspects to consider also, for instance accreditation and the reputation 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 effectively vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Attalla AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some Attalla AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also offer a means for students to start creating contacts within the Attalla AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Since laws differ among states, it may be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to create relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the area where you choose to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to first consider those schools that are within the Attalla AL area.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential received and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be accessible to help offset some of the cost, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Attalla AL. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online program, some of these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Attalla AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you select makes available that option. Last, ask what the process is for making-up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Classes
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more common and may be an excellent alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online schools can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a reputable organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Attalla AL?
If you live near Attalla 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 town occupies the site of an Indian village which was of considerable importance during the Creek War. It was in Attalla that David Brown, a Cherokee assisted by the Rev. D. S. Butterick, prepared the Cherokee Spelling Book.
Attalla was not founded until 1870, on land donated by W. C. Hammond, a plantation owner. It was incorporated as a city government on February 5, 1872. The town was officially named "Attalla" in 1893, from the Cherokee language word meaning "mountain". Attalla was prosperous until the railroads that it depended on went into bankruptcy.
William Lewis Moore, a U.S. postman and white civil rights activist, was murdered here on April 23, 1963 as he tried to walk from Chattanooga, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi to deliver his letter in support of civil rights to Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett. The suspected murderer, Floyd Simpson, was never charged with the crime.]].
Choose the Right Legal Assistant Certificate Program near Attalla AL
Choosing the best paralegal degree program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Attalla home. Paralegal academic programs are provided in various formats and lengths. Several kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you elect to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to review each program and make your final decision. And with the ideal training you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Attalla AL.
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