How to Find a Paralegal Studies Program near Clanton Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Clanton AL and start your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. However, it’s important that you locate the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational alternatives are becoming available, 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 commuting distance of their Clanton residences. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program must be taken into consideration too. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your selection. But first, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill comparable job positions and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Clanton AL attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their day-to-day activities may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents 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 responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be involved and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a paralegal in Clanton AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve just six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might want to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some of the highly regarded 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
What to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Clanton AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other crucial issues to think about also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a respected 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 targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Clanton AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually available only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Clanton AL law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Clanton AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws differ from state to state, it may be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the area where you desire 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 first look at those schools that are within the Clanton AL area.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential received and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don’t forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help offset part of the expense, so don’t forget to check with the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Clanton AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online program, some of these additional costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Clanton AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you choose makes available that option. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Programs
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more popular and can be an excellent option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to those who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a reputable organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Clanton AL?
If you live near Clanton 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.
Clanton is a city in Chilton County, Alabama, United States. It is part of the Birmingham–Hoover–Cullman Combined Statistical Area. At the 2010 census the population was 8,619. The city is the county seat of Chilton County. Clanton is near the site of the geographic center of the U.S state of Alabama.
The town was founded by Alfred Baker in 1868, when Chilton County was formed. Prior to establishment in 1868, the Town of Clanton was known as the community of "Goose Pond". Baker County was renamed to Chilton County and the community of "Goose Pond" became the Town of Clanton. Clanton was named in honor of General James H. Clanton, a brigadier in the Confederate States Army, and was incorporated on April 23, 1873. Baker was also elected first mayor of the town.
Nearby Lay Lake Dam and Mitchell Dam became Alabama Power's first two dams in the state, bringing economic improvements to the area. Immigrants played a part in starting the county's peach industry more than a century ago. Today, the peach industry is the number one industry in Chilton County, not only bringing fame to the county, but also millions of dollars to the local economy. The city of Clanton constructed a water tower in the form of a peach in 1993, becoming a landmark for travelers along Interstate 65.
Find the Right Paralegal Training near Clanton AL
Selecting the best paralegal training program is a vital first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Clanton home. Paralegal education programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Different kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you elect to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to assess each school and make your final selection. And with the right education you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Clanton AL.
Other Alabama Locations That May Be Of Interest