How to Find a Paralegal Training Program near Gardendale Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Gardendale AL and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it’s important that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive 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 a growing number of educational choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students start by looking for schools within driving range of their Gardendale residences. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you ought to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be taken into account too. Later in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your choice. But before we do, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill the same job positions 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 separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Gardendale AL attorneys with a wide range of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. 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 assist with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their everyday activities can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys get ready 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 complex and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to handle 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 possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Gardendale AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can require as little as 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will cover 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 paralegal or a legal assistant.
What to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Gardendale AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial issues to research also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Gardendale AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Gardendale AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while still in school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Gardendale AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it may be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the neighboring 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 go to classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Gardendale AL region.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential received and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be accessible to help offset some of the cost, so be sure to check with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Gardendale AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Gardendale AL, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you choose makes available that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making-up missed classes due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Classes
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more popular and may be a good alternative for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to those who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online classes can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online 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 quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the right option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Gardendale AL?
If you live near Gardendale 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.
A large farm settlement near the area today known as Gardendale was settled around 1825. Some years later, other settlers began to move into the community commonly known as Jugtown, a name given to the area based on the presence of a large jug and churn factory that operated in the area. Some years later, Hettie Thomason Cargo, a school teacher, would lead a campaign to change the name of the community. In 1906, the name Gardendale was selected, and in 1955, the City of Gardendale was officially incorporated. Today, with more than 13,000 residents (estimated), the city of Gardendale has grown to include more than 400 businesses, 4 schools, and 24 churches.
In 1996, the Olympic torch run passed through the city during the weeks leading up to the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta. Before Interstate 65 was constructed, the main route between Nashville, Tennessee and Birmingham, Alabama was U.S. Route 31. Prior to being built as a four-lane road, U.S. 31 was a twisting two-lane road that is still largely visible today. From the north end of Gardendale, it is now Snow Rogers Road, North Road, Moncrief Road, and then Main Street southward through the city to the Fultondale city limit where it becomes Stouts Road. In the fall of 2008, new signs were placed along the original route of Stouts Road through Gardendale denoting its historical significance as a stagecoach route between Tennessee and Birmingham during the 19th century. The first traffic signals in the city were located along U.S. 31 at Tarrant Road, Fieldstown Road, and Moncrief Road as well as Tarrant Road at Pineywood Road. A new signal at the intersection of Fieldstown Road and Main Street near city hall replaced a blinking signal shortly thereafter. Fieldstown Road was a narrow two lane road from U.S. 31 westward until Interstate 65 was built and then Fieldstown Road was re-routed onto the new road in the mid-1980s. An abundance of traffic signals have been erected in the city since those early days. In approximately 1970, the city installed street lights along U.S. 31 from the Fultondale city limits northward to the Moncrief Road intersection. The technology at that time was for blue vapor lights. Today, nearly 40 years later those same blue vapor lights still exist with some being replaced with the more modern bulbs near major intersections. Since 1980, Gardendale has annexed considerable amounts of land on the north, east, and west sides. Much of the eastern area is uninhabited. The western annexation is centered along Fieldstown Road. Most of the newest residential development has been in this area and along Shady Grove Road south of Fieldstown Road. The northern annexation has centered along US 31 and extends nearly 2 miles (3.2 km) farther north than 1980. The city has a working historical society, established January 23, 2006, that is working to record the history of the Gardendale area. They have a museum that is open to the public on Saturday mornings each week. It contains a variety of photographs, documents, and other historical memorabilia from Gardendale.
Gardendale is located at 33°39′36″N 86°48′46″W / 33.66000°N 86.81278°W / 33.66000; -86.81278 (33.6601033, -86.8127702). According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 18.0 square miles (47 km2), all land. However, with the recent annexation of several thousand acres from the community of Mt. Olive and other unincorporated areas, the city now has an estimated total area of around 25.0 square miles (65 km2). Gardendale is situated along one of the three major transportation corridors from the Midwest to the Gulf Coast (I-75, I-65, I-55). A tremendous volume of freight (via rail and truck) passes through or near Gardendale.
Select the Right Paralegal School near Gardendale AL
Choosing the right paralegal training program is an important first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Gardendale residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in various formats and lengths. Different kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you choose to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to assess each school and make your final selection. And with the ideal education you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Gardendale AL.
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