How to Find a Paralegal School near Sycamore Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Sycamore AL and start your journey that will lead to a rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you locate the best school so that you will receive the extensive 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 increasingly more academic options are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students begin by searching for schools within traveling distance of their Sycamore homes. Of those options, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you need to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program ought to be taken into consideration too. Later on in this post we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your choice. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals 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 category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Sycamore AL lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their day-to-day activities may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Sycamore AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may require just 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and can be obtained 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 may choose to proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Questions 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 evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Sycamore AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant aspects to consider also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a highly regarded 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 quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Sycamore AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Learn 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 previous experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you choose is accredited is a good 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 contact a few Sycamore AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start creating contacts within the Sycamore AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it might be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to practice 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 justification to obtain your education in the community where you desire to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to initially investigate those schools that are within the Sycamore AL region.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost based on the credential received and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don’t forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be obtainable to help minimize some of the expense, so make sure to check with the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Sycamore AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online program, some of these additional costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Sycamore AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you enroll in makes available that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making up classes missed due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Training
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more popular and can be an excellent alternative for those looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online programs can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced 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 training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a reputable organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the right option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Sycamore AL?
If you live near Sycamore 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.
Timber Sycamore was a classified weapons supply and training program run by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and supported by Arab intelligence services, such as the security service in Saudi Arabia. Launched in 2012 or 2013, it supplied money, weaponry and training to rebel forces fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian Civil War. According to US officials, the program has trained thousands of rebels. President Barack Obama secretly authorized the CIA to begin arming Syria’s embattled rebels in 2013.
The program's existence was suspected after the US Federal Business Opportunities website publicly solicited contract bids to ship tons of weaponry from Eastern Europe to Taşucu, Turkey and Aqaba, Jordan. One unintended consequence of the program has been to flood the Middle East's black market with weapons including assault rifles, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades.
In July 2017, US officials stated that Timber Sycamore would be phased out, with funds possibly redirected to fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), or to offering rebel forces defensive capabilities.
Find the Best Legal Assistant Degree Program near Sycamore AL
Choosing the right paralegal degree program is an essential first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Sycamore home. Paralegal academic programs are made available in numerous lengths and formats. Different kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you decide to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to review each school and make your final selection. And with the ideal education you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Sycamore AL.
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