How to Choose a Paralegal Degree Program near Pennington Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Pennington AL and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding profession in legal services. However, it’s essential that you locate the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need 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 academic alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students begin by searching for schools within traveling distance of their Pennington homes. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program ought to be taken into consideration also. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your choice. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold the same job roles and responsibilities, only 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 legal assistants and paralegals assist Pennington AL attorneys with a wide range of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is typically billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their routine activities can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and very 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 duties 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 take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps 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 Pennington AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may require just six months to accomplish. A large number of 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. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. When you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might want to proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining 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 Colleges
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Pennington AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other critical factors to research as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Pennington AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking 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 contact a few Pennington AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also provide a means for students to start developing contacts within the Pennington AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary among states, it may be beneficial to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to build relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to first investigate those schools that are within the Pennington AL region.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don’t forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be obtainable to help offset part of the expense, so don’t forget to contact the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Pennington AL. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Pennington AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in offers that option. Last, find out what the procedure is for making-up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Programs
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more available and can be a good alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to those who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online schools can often be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a reputable agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the right choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Pennington AL?
If you live near Pennington 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.
As of the census of 2000, there were 353 people, 142 households, and 103 families residing in the town. The population density was 188.6 people per square mile (72.9/km²). There were 197 housing units at an average density of 105.3 per square mile (40.7/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 64.31% White, 34.84% Black or African American, 0.28% Native American, 0.57% from other races.
There were 142 households out of which 35.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.2% were married couples living together, 15.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 26.8% were non-families. 26.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.49 and the average family size was 2.98.
In the town, the population was spread out with 28.6% under the age of 18, 6.5% from 18 to 24, 28.6% from 25 to 44, 22.7% from 45 to 64, and 13.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females, there were 98.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 101.6 males.
Find the Right Paralegal School near Pennington AL
Choosing the best paralegal educational program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Pennington home. Paralegal education programs are made available in numerous lengths and formats. Several types of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you choose to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to examine each school and make your final decision. And with the ideal education you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Pennington AL.
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