How to Select a Paralegal Program near Saginaw Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Saginaw AL and begin your journey that will result in a fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require 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 choices are being offered, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students begin by looking for schools within traveling distance of their Saginaw homes. Of those choices, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school should be considered also. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your selection. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill the same job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Saginaw AL lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their routine activities may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other 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 give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Saginaw AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve just six months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 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 may want to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few 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 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.
Points to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can start the process of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Saginaw AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many prospective 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 important aspects to think about as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Saginaw AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are considering. 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 training exclusively. Confirming that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some Saginaw AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while still in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Saginaw AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws vary among states, it may be advantageous to select a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially investigate those schools that are within the Saginaw AL area.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be accessible to help minimize some of the cost, so make sure to check with the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Saginaw AL. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while getting their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Saginaw AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you enroll in provides that option. Last, find out what the procedure is for making-up classes missed due to work, illness or family obligations.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Schools
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more common and can be a good alternative for those looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater 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 looking into are accredited by a reputable organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the right choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Saginaw AL?
If you live near Saginaw 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.
Saginaw is an unincorporated community 2.5 miles north of Calera in Shelby County, Alabama, United States with zip code 35137. It is part of the Birmingham-Hoover-Cullman Combined Statistical Area. It is located southeast of Alabaster on the east side of Interstate 65 at the intersection of State Route 70 and U.S. Route 31.
Saginaw is the home of the Saginaw Pipe Company, Inc., a major supplier of steel pipe, beams, tubing, and plate. The Dravo Lime Company quarry in Saginaw was honored for their outstanding safety record in the annual Sentinels of Safety awards program co-sponsored by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and the National Mining Association (NMA) in 1997 and 1999.
The U.S. Census bureau does not keep separate statistics for Saginaw. As of the census of 2000, for Block Group 2, Census Tract 306.09, Shelby County, Alabama, which is the census block group that includes the center of Saginaw, the total population was 1,684 people, with a racial makeup of 97.1% white, 2.2% black, and 0.7% mixed or other races.
Select the Ideal Paralegal College near Saginaw AL
Selecting the best paralegal educational program is a vital 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 comfort and privacy of your Saginaw residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Several kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you choose to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to evaluate each program and make your final decision. And with the appropriate training you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Saginaw AL.
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