How to Pick a Paralegal Studies Program near Thomasville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Thomasville AL and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you find the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic choices are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students start by trying to find schools within driving range of their Thomasville residences. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program must be taken into consideration also. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your decision. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both hold the same job positions and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Thomasville AL lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their daily tasks can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be involved and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really 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 manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to start your career as a paralegal in Thomasville AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve just six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more extensive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. When you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to continue and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will discuss the advantages 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.
What to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can start the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Thomasville AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other crucial aspects to consider as well, for instance 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 properly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to 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 distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Thomasville AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually available only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Thomasville AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the Thomasville AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws differ from one state to another, it might be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the area where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to initially investigate those schools that are within the Thomasville AL region.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be available to help minimize some of the expense, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Thomasville AL. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online program, some of these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Thomasville AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you choose provides that option. Finally, find out what the process is for making-up missed classes because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Training
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more common and may be a good option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to individuals who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the right choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Thomasville AL?
If you live near Thomasville 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.
Thomasville is a city in Clarke County, Alabama, United States. At the 2010 census the population was 4,209. Founded as a late 19th-century railroad town, it has transitioned over the course of more than a century into a 21st-century commercial hub. It is the childhood hometown of author and storyteller Kathryn Tucker Windham.
Thomasville was founded in 1888 and incorporated on November 24 of that year. The former community of Choctaw Corner, dating back to the antebellum period, was a settlement west of what would become Thomasville, but when the merchants there learned that a railroad was going to bypass their town to the east, they decided to move their stores to be near the railroad. The former community is now inside the city limits. The tracks between Mobile and Selma were completed the same year that Thomasville began. First referred to as "Choctaw", the town was named after railroad financier and former Union Civil War general, Samuel Thomas, after he donated $500 for the construction of Thomasville's first school. The town had expanded by the end of the 19th century with numerous stores, several hotels and boarding houses, and a depot station. In 1899, what is now downtown was destroyed by a fire that burned several blocks of the wood frame buildings. Thomasville quickly rebuilt, this time in brick, and was once again flourishing by the start of World War I.
Over the next century, Thomasville continued to grow and expand. Over the years, many businesses came and others left. These included garment factories, sawmills, and cotton gins. The railroad discontinued its use of the town's depot by the 1950s, but that time also saw the opening of Thomasville's FPS-35 radar base, part of the Air Defense Command's Semi Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) system, bringing in servicemen and their families. The prototype for the FPS-35 radar was developed at the Thomasville Aircraft Control and Warning Station. The 1950s also saw the planting of roses along Highway 43, the main highway through Thomasville, earning it the nickname of The City of Roses. The 1960s and 1970s saw the opening of numerous paper mills in the area, an industry that continues to be important to the economy of Thomasville today. This time also saw businesses begin to relocate from downtown to the main highway. The Thomasville Historic District was designated in 1999 by the National Register of Historic Places.
Choose the Ideal Paralegal Certificate Program near Thomasville AL
Choosing the ideal paralegal educational program is a crucial 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 on campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Thomasville residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in various formats and lengths. Various types of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you elect to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to review each program and make your final selection. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Thomasville AL.
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