How to Select a Paralegal Program near Rutledge Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Rutledge AL and start your journey that will lead to a fulfilling profession in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you locate the best school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students start by trying to find schools within commuting range of their Rutledge homes. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school must be taken into consideration also. Later in this post we will cover a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your choice. But first, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both fill the same job roles and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Rutledge AL lawyers with a wide variety of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their routine activities may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be involved and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main 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 volume of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Rutledge AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve as little as 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. After you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, 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 may not only help increase your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded certifying agencies in the field 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 address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Rutledge AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other critical factors to research as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Rutledge AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Rutledge AL law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also offer a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Rutledge AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it may be a good idea to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to initially investigate those schools that are within the Rutledge AL area.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be available to help reduce some of the expense, so don’t forget to contact the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Rutledge AL. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Rutledge AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you select offers that option. Last, ask what the process is for making-up classes missed due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Schools
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more common and may be a good option for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to individuals who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a respected organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the right option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Rutledge AL?
If you live near Rutledge 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.
Rutledge is located at the geographic center of Crenshaw County at 31°43′59″N 86°18′35″W / 31.73306°N 86.30972°W / 31.73306; -86.30972 (31.733103, -86.309619). The city of Luverne, the Crenshaw County seat, lies along Rutledge's eastern border.
Rutledge began as Barber's Crossroads. It was originally settled by Jared Phelps Barber. The town was briefly named Crenshaw, but on June 10, 1867, it was changed to Rutledge in honor of Captain Henry Rutledge, Company H. 59th Alabama Infantry, CSA. Rutledge was the first county seat of Crenshaw County and held that position from March 1867 to May 1893. It was incorporated in 1871.
As of the census of 2000, there were 476 people, 201 households, and 127 families residing in the town. The population density was 143.4 people per square mile (55.4/km²). There were 264 housing units at an average density of 79.5 per square mile (30.7/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 71.01% White, 28.36% Black or African American, and 0.63% from two or more races.
Select the Best Paralegal Certificate Program near Rutledge AL
Enrolling in the right paralegal training program is an essential first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed 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 Rutledge home. Paralegal academic programs are provided in numerous formats and lengths. Different types of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But no matter how you elect to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to review each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal education you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Rutledge AL.
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