How to Find a Paralegal Certificate Program near Centreville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Centreville AL and begin your journey that will result in a satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you locate the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational options are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students start by trying to find schools within driving range of their Centreville homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program should be considered as well. Later on in this post we will review a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both fill 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 belong to a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Centreville AL lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with the logistics of a trial 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 attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but some of their regular tasks may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially 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 means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Centreville AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can require just six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your employment 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Points to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Centreville AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other important factors to research also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select should be accredited by a recognized organization 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 focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify 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 also. Many Centreville AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some Centreville AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Centreville AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws differ from state to state, it might be beneficial to choose a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the area where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to initially consider those colleges that are within the Centreville AL region.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be accessible to help minimize some of the expense, so make sure to contact the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Centreville AL. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, some of these additional expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Centreville AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you select provides that option. Finally, inquire what the procedure is for making-up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Schools
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more available and can be an excellent alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to those who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online programs can often be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes 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 Centreville AL?
If you live near Centreville 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.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Centreville has a total area of 9.6 square miles (24.9 km2), of which 9.5 square miles (24.5 km2) are land and 0.15 square miles (0.4 km2), or 1.52%, is water.
The climate in this area is characterized by hot, humid summers and generally mild to cool winters. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Centreville has a humid subtropical climate, abbreviated "Cfa" on climate maps. 
Centreville is the site of the highest recorded temperature in the state of Alabama. On September 6, 1925, the temperature in Centreville reached the state record of 112 ºF. The data below are for the years 1916 to 1974.
Select the Best Paralegal School near Centreville 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 covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Centreville home. Paralegal academic programs are provided in many lengths and formats. Several types of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, 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 opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you elect to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to review each program and make your final selection. And with the ideal training you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Centreville AL.
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