How to Select a Paralegal Certificate Program near Camden Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Camden AL and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students start by trying to find schools within driving distance of their Camden residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school must be taken into account also. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your decision. But first, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both hold comparable job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Camden AL attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but some of their regular tasks might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be involved and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative functions 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 preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to start your career as a paralegal in Camden 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 provide a more expansive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected certifying organizations 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 two important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Things to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Camden AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most potential 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 crucial issues to research also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Camden AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing 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 call a few Camden AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also present an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Camden AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws differ from state to state, it may be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to create relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the area where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially look at those schools that are within the Camden AL area.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. 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 also. Financial aid might be obtainable to help offset part of the expense, so be sure to check with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Camden AL. Of course if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these added expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Camden AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select makes available that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making up missed classes due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Degrees
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more prevalent and may be an excellent option for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to individuals who keep working while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online programs can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a respected agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Camden AL?
If you live near Camden 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.
What is now Camden was established on property donated by Thomas Dunn from his plantation holdings in order to have a new town founded on the site in 1833 to serve as the county seat. Dunn's Federal style house, built in 1825, is the oldest documented house in the town. The first county seat was in the community of Canton Bend.
The county seat was moved in 1833 to Barboursville, later renamed Camden. It had been named Barboursville in honor of United States Congressman Philip Barbour of Virginia. Incorporated in 1841, Camden was renamed by local physician John D. Caldwell in honor of his hometown of Camden, South Carolina.
The area depended on cultivation of cotton as a commodity crop, which was worked by numerous African-American slaves. The earliest documented industries in the town were a brickyard, sawmill, and window fabricator. The Camden Phenix was the town's earliest known newspaper. Townspeople founded a girls' school in 1844, the Wilcox Female Seminary and Female Institute, whose red-brick Greek-Revival style building was constructed from 1845–50. In 1976 the former school was adapted to house the Wilcox County Historical Society.
Find the Right Paralegal School near Camden AL
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal training program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Camden residence. Paralegal academic programs are offered in various formats and lengths. Various kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you decide to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to examine each program and make your final selection. And with the right training you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Camden AL.
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