How to Pick a Paralegal Certificate Program near Saraland Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Saraland AL and start your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you find the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students begin by searching for schools within traveling range of their Saraland homes. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school must be considered too. Later in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your decision. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold the same job roles and functions, only 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 category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Saraland AL attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is usually billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day activities may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Saraland AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may take as little as six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive education and may be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may want to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your job 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Saraland AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other critical factors to consider also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Saraland AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are often accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Saraland AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while still in school. They can also provide a means for students to start establishing contacts within the Saraland AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success 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 graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Because laws vary from state to state, it might be advantageous to choose a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. Also, it will be important to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the community where you desire to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to first look at those colleges that are within the Saraland AL area.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential received and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be available to help minimize some of the expense, so be sure to contact the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Saraland AL. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these added costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Saraland AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you enroll in provides that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making-up missed classes due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Classes
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more prevalent and can be a good option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to individuals who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online schools can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items 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 ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Saraland AL?
If you live near Saraland 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.
Saraland is a city in Mobile County, Alabama, United States, and a suburb of Mobile. As of the 2010 census, the population of the city is 13,405. It is a part of the Mobile metropolitan area. Saraland is the third largest city in Mobile County.
The land area that was to become the present-day Saraland, was included in a Spanish land grant to Don Diego Alvarez. Hence, descendants of Alvarez were the ones to give the community its first name: Alvarez Station. Later land squatters moved into the area and were able, legally, in 1800 to begin purchasing property. In 1807, a land office was opened in St. Stephens to handle all land transactions. Some of the pioneer families who seized the opportunity to buy up sections were named Alvarez, Rice, Hartley, Moore, LaCoste, Williams, Tool and Cleveland. Ultimately, Alvarez Station was called Cleveland Station. The present name of the city is reported to have been given by C.J. DeWitt, a retired minister editor who moved south in 1890 for health reasons. He opened the first post office on the Southern Railroad in 1895. The community is purported to be the namesake of his beloved wife, Sara.
Saraland was sparsely populated during the first part of the 20th century, until an industrial and population boom occurred in neighboring Mobile. Northward expansion of Mobile in the 1940s and 50s brought about the incorporation of Saraland in 1957. At the time of incorporation, the city reported only 125 residents. By the 1960 U.S. Census, annexations had swelled the population to 4,595. In 1980, census figures cited 9,844 Saraland residents. Current census records report that as of 2017, Saraland's population is estimated to have grown to 14,576.
Choose the Ideal Legal Assistant College near Saraland AL
Choosing the best paralegal training program is a crucial first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Saraland home. Paralegal academic programs are made available in numerous formats and lengths. Different types of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you elect to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to examine each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the right education you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Saraland AL.
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