How to Find a Paralegal Degree Program near Sylacauga Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Sylacauga AL and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it’s important that you locate the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students start by trying to find schools within driving distance of their Sylacauga homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school should be considered as well. Later on in this article we will review 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 before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold comparable job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Sylacauga AL attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but some of their day-to-day tasks can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be involved and very demanding. On the other hand, 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 duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, 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 prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Sylacauga AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve as little as six months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. Once you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected certifying organizations 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 program (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Things to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Sylacauga AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most 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 critical factors to think about as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation 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 properly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Sylacauga AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no previous experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Sylacauga AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the Sylacauga AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it may be advantageous to select a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to initially consider those colleges that are within the Sylacauga AL region.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be available to help minimize some of the cost, so be sure to contact the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Sylacauga AL. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, some of these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Sylacauga AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select provides that option. Last, ask what the process is for making-up missed classes because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Degrees
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more popular and may be a good alternative for those looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can often be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the right choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Sylacauga AL?
If you live near Sylacauga 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.
Sylacauga is known for its fine white marble bedrock. This was discovered shortly after settlers moved into the area and has been quarried ever since. The marble industry was the first recorded industry in the Sylacauga area.
Sylacauga is the site of the first documented case of an object from outer space hitting a person. On November 30, 1954, a 4 kg (9 lb) piece of what became known as the Hodges Meteorite crashed through the roof of an Oak Grove house, bounced off a radio, and badly bruised Mrs. Ann Hodges, who was taking an afternoon nap.
The first historical account of the area comes from de Soto's chroniclers as he marched south along the east bank of the Coosa River in 1540, encountering the town of Talisi at the edges of the Mississippian-era chiefdoms of Coosa and Tuskaloosa. The inhabitants of the Coosa River Valley were later united as the Creek Indians, whose encounters with the Spanish and French had a significant influence on the history of Sylacauga. Events that occurred between these three groups were partly responsible for the settlement of the village of Chalakagay in 1748 near modern Sylacauga by refugee Shawnee Indians led by Peter Chartier, and Chalakagay was later listed in the French territorial records in 1759 as being a town inhabited by 50 Shawnee Indian warriors. Late in the summer of 1836 all of the Indians remaining in Alabama were taken west by the United States government. The name Sy-la-cau-ga is derived from the Indian words Chalaka-ge which mean "The Place of the Chalaka Tribe". The city was first incorporated in 1838 as Syllacoga and again in 1887 as Sylacauga.
Find the Best Paralegal Program near Sylacauga AL
Selecting the best paralegal degree program is a crucial first step to guarantee 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 attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Sylacauga home. Paralegal training programs are made available in numerous formats and lengths. Different kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you choose to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to evaluate each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate training you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Sylacauga AL.
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