How to Find a Paralegal Studies Program near Calera Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Calera AL and begin your journey that will result in a fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you find the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational options are being offered, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students start by looking for schools within commuting range of their Calera residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school must be taken into consideration also. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both hold comparable job roles and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Calera AL lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their regular tasks can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Calera AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve just six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. After you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded certifying organizations 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 school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
What to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Calera AL area, as well as trade and vocational 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 as well. If you are like most prospective 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 issues to research also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Calera AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you select 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 quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Calera AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while still in school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Calera AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it may be advantageous to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to first consider those colleges that are within the Calera AL region.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don’t forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be accessible to help reduce part of the cost, so be sure to contact the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Calera AL. Naturally if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these added costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Calera AL, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you select provides that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making up missed classes due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Programs
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more common and may be a good alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to individuals who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the right choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Calera AL?
If you live near Calera 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.
As of the 2010 census the population had more than tripled to 11,620, making it the fastest-growing city in Alabama. It is within the Birmingham-Hoover, Alabama Metropolitan Statistical Area and positively affected by the growth in its economy.
Calera is located in southern Shelby County at 33°06′27″N 86°45′00″W / 33.107572°N 86.749964°W / 33.107572; -86.749964. The city limits extend southward into Chilton County along U.S. Route 31, the main highway through the city. Interstate 65 passes through the eastern side of the city, with access from exits 228, 231, and 234.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 24.4 square miles (63.1 km2), of which 24.1 square miles (62.4 km2) is land and 0.27 square miles (0.7 km2), or 1.17%, is water.
Select the Right Legal Assistant Program near Calera AL
Choosing the right paralegal degree program is an essential first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Calera residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Different kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you choose to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to review each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate training you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Calera AL.
Other Alabama Locations That May Be Of Interest
Business Results 1 - 10 of 6