How to Find a Paralegal Certificate Program near Cullman Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Cullman AL and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you find the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational choices are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students start by looking for schools within commuting range of their Cullman homes. Of those choices, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you ought to take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program must be considered too. Later on in this post we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your decision. But first, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill comparable job roles and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Cullman AL lawyers with a wide variety of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their daily tasks can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and quite challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative tasks more suited 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 ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training 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 educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to start your career as a paralegal in Cullman AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can take just six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more extensive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few 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 program (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Cullman AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other important factors to think about as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation 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 school and program that you choose should be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Cullman AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, 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 several Cullman AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even if 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 offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also provide a means for students to begin creating contacts within the Cullman AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, specifically 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 getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary among states, it may be beneficial to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be important to build relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the community where you choose to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to first look at those schools that are within the Cullman AL area.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help offset part of the cost, so make sure to check with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Cullman AL. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, some of these added expenses, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while getting their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Cullman AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in provides that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making-up classes missed because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Programs
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more available and can be a good option for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Cullman AL?
If you live near Cullman 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.
Cullman is a city in and the county seat of Cullman County, Alabama, United States. It is located along Interstate 65, about 50 miles (80 km) north of Birmingham and about 55 miles (89 km) south of Huntsville. As of the 2010 census it had a population of 14,775, with an estimated population of 15,385 in 2017.
In the time before European settlement, the area that today includes Cullman was originally in the territory of the Cherokee Nation. The region was traversed by a trail known as the Black Warrior's Path, which led from the Tennessee River near the present location of Florence, Alabama, to a point on the Black Warrior River south of Cullman. This trail figured significantly in Cherokee history, and it featured prominently in the American Indian Wars prior to the establishment of the state of Alabama and the relocation of several American Indian tribes, including the Creek people westward along the Trail of Tears. During the Creek War in 1813, General Andrew Jackson of the U.S. Army dispatched a contingent of troops down the trail, one of which included the frontiersman Davy Crockett.
In the 1820s and the 1830s, two toll roads were built linking the Tennessee Valley to present-day Birmingham. In 1822, Abraham Stout was given a charter by the Alabama Legislature to open and turnpike a road beginning from Gandy's Cove in Morgan County to the ghost town of Baltimore on the Mulberry Fork near Colony. The road passed near present-day Vinemont through Cullman, Good Hope, and down the current Interstate 65 corridor to the Mulberry Fork. The road was later extended to Elyton (Birmingham) in 1827. It then became known as Stout's Road. Mace Thomas Payne Brindley was given a charter in 1833 to turnpike two roads, one running between Blount Springs to Somerville by way of his homestead in present-day Simcoe, and the second road passing west of Hanceville and east of Downtown Cullman to join Stout's Road north of the city. What later became the Brindley Turnpike became an extension of Stout's Road to Decatur. Cullman later became located between the juncture of the two roads, and they predated the corridor of U.S. Route 31.
Find the Right Legal Assistant Degree Program near Cullman AL
Selecting the best paralegal educational program is a vital first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Cullman residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in various lengths and formats. Different kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you elect to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to review each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate education you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Cullman AL.
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