How to Select a Paralegal Program near Springville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Springville AL and begin your journey that will lead to a satisfying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you locate the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students begin by trying to find schools within commuting range of their Springville residences. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program must be taken into consideration also. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your decision. But first, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold the same job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Springville AL attorneys with a wide range of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but some of their regular tasks may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Springville AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may require as little as six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and can be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to continue and receive a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 program (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Things to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Springville AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial aspects to research also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose should be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Springville AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Springville AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Springville AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ from state to state, it might be beneficial to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the area where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to first look at those colleges that are within the Springville AL region.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential earned and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be available to help minimize some of the expense, so be sure to check with the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Springville AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Springville AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you choose makes available that option. Last, find out what the process is for making-up missed classes due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Schools
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more popular and can be a good alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to those who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online schools can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in more 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 respected organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes 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 Springville AL?
If you live near Springville 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 2,521 people, 990 households, and 767 families residing in the town. The population density was 393.8 people per square mile (152.1/km²). There were 1,049 housing units at an average density of 163.8 per square mile (63.3/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 90.56% White, 7.74% Black or African American, 0.16% Native American, 0.28% Asian, 0.16% Pacific Islander, and 1.11% from two or more races. 0.24% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 990 households out of which 34.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 62.8% were married couples living together, 11.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 22.5% were non-families. 20.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.55 and the average family size was 2.93.
In the town the population was spread out with 24.9% under the age of 18, 6.9% from 18 to 24, 30.1% from 25 to 44, 26.2% from 45 to 64, and 11.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females, there were 97.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 88.5 males.
Select the Best Legal Assistant Training near Springville 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 article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Springville home. Paralegal education programs are provided in numerous lengths and formats. Different types of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you choose to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to examine each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate training you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Springville AL.
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