How to Choose a Paralegal Studies Program near Pike Road Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Pike Road AL and begin your journey that will result in a fulfilling profession in legal services. However, it’s essential that you find the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students start by trying to find schools within traveling distance of their Pike Road residences. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school should be taken into consideration also. Later on in this post we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your decision. But first, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold comparable job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Pike Road AL attorneys with a wide range of job duties, such as 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. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their daily tasks might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since 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 Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Pike Road AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may require as little as six months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. Once you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Schools
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Pike Road AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant issues to think about also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
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 school, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Pike Road AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often available only for accredited programs.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some Pike Road AL law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Keep 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 Offer Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Pike Road AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws differ from one state to another, it might be beneficial to select a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. Also, it will be important to develop relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to initially consider those schools that are within the Pike Road AL region.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. 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 as well. Financial assistance might be available to help minimize some of the expense, so don’t forget to check with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Pike Road AL. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, some of these additional costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Pike Road AL, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select provides that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Programs
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more popular and may be an excellent option for those looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to those who keep working while earning a degree. As an added advantage, online schools can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the right choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Pike Road AL?
If you live near Pike Road 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.
Pike Road, Alabama
Pike Road is a town in Montgomery County, Alabama, United States. As of the 2000 census, the population of the town was 310. The 2010 census indicated a population of 5,406. It is part of the Montgomery metropolitan area.
The current town council members are: Chris Dunn, Angie Bradsher, Betsy Atkins, Leroy Tolliver and Rob Steindorff. The Pike Road Town Council meets at 7:00 p.m. on the second Monday of each month as well as the fourth Wednesday of every month at 7:00 a.m. Meetings are held in the council chamber at Pike Road Town Hall (9575 Vaughn Road).
By the time of the 2010 census, there were 5,406 people residing in Pike Road with the town now having 1,933 households, and 1606 families. The town's population grew almost 20-fold since the 2000 census, making it one of the fastest growing incorporated places in Alabama with a population of over 5,000 in 2010. Population is 8,777 as of 2016.
Find the Best Legal Assistant Program near Pike Road AL
Selecting the best paralegal training program is an important first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered 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 Pike Road residence. Paralegal training programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Various kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program 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 schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you elect to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to assess each program and make your final decision. And with the right training you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Pike Road AL.
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