How to Choose a Paralegal Program near Tuskegee Institute Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Tuskegee Institute AL and begin your journey that will result in a fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students start by searching for schools within traveling distance of their Tuskegee Institute residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime 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 taken into consideration as well. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your selection. But before we do, 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.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold the same job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, 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 Tuskegee Institute AL attorneys with a wide range of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their regular tasks might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching related cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and very 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 restricted to administrative or clerical tasks more suited 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 ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education 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 prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Tuskegee Institute AL is by earning a certificate, which may require just six months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might want to proceed and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly regarded 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 first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Tuskegee Institute AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many prospective 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 significant issues to think about as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick 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 focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Tuskegee Institute AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often available only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of specific 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 education exclusively. Confirming that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Tuskegee Institute AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Keep 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 Offer Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while still in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start creating contacts within the Tuskegee Institute AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary from state to state, it may be a good idea to select a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to first consider those schools that are within the Tuskegee Institute AL area.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential received and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be available to help reduce part of the expense, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Tuskegee Institute AL. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online program, some of these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Tuskegee Institute 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 select provides that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making-up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Training
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more popular and may be a good alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online programs can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a reputable agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional environment, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Tuskegee Institute AL?
If you live near Tuskegee Institute 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.
Tuskegee University is a private, historically black university (HBCU) located in Tuskegee, Alabama, United States. It was established by Lewis Adams and Booker T. Washington. The campus is designated as the Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site by the National Park Service and is the only one in the U.S. to have this designation. The university was home to scientist George Washington Carver and to World War II's Tuskegee Airmen.
Tuskegee University offers 40 bachelor's degree programs, 17 master's degree programs, a 5-year accredited professional degree program in architecture, 4 doctoral degree programs, and the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. The university is home to over 3,100 students from the U.S. and 30 foreign countries. Tuskegee University was ranked among 2018's best 379 colleges and universities by The Princeton Review and 6th among the 2018 U.S. News & World Report best HBCUs.
The school was founded on July 4, 1881, as the Tuskegee Normal School for Colored Teachers. This was a result of an agreement made during the 1880 elections in Macon County between a former Confederate Colonel, W.F. Foster, who was running on the democratic ticket and a local Black Leader and Republican, Lewis Adams. W.F. Foster propositioned that if Adams could successfully persuade the Black constituents to vote for Foster, if elected, Foster would push the state of Alabama to establish a school for Black people in the county. At the time the majority of Macon County population was Black, thus Black constituents had political power. Adams succeeded and Foster followed through with the school. The school became a part of the expansion of higher education for blacks in the former Confederate states following the American Civil War, with many schools founded by the northern American Missionary Association. A teachers' school was the dream of Lewis Adams, a former slave, and George W. Campbell, a banker, merchant, and former slaveholder, who shared a commitment to the education of blacks. Despite lacking formal education, Adams could read, write, and speak several languages. He was an experienced tinsmith, harness-maker, and shoemaker and was a Prince Hall Freemason, an acknowledged leader of the African-American community in Macon County, Alabama.
Find the Right Paralegal Degree Program near Tuskegee Institute AL
Selecting the ideal paralegal degree program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Tuskegee Institute home. Paralegal academic programs are provided in numerous lengths and formats. Various kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you choose to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to examine each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Tuskegee Institute AL.
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