How to Choose a Paralegal Certificate Program near Wetumpka Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Wetumpka AL and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you find the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students begin by searching for schools within commuting distance of their Wetumpka homes. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program ought to be considered as well. Later in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your selection. But first, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both fill the same job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Wetumpka AL attorneys with a diverse array of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their routine activities can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers get ready 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 complex and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Wetumpka AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can require as little as six months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. Once you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might want 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 increase your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. 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 cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Wetumpka AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. 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 previously covered, there are other important aspects to research as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Wetumpka AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some Wetumpka AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while still in school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Wetumpka AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large 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? Because laws differ among states, it may be a good idea to choose a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. Also, it will be important to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the area where you choose to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially look at those colleges that are within the Wetumpka AL area.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can differ 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 education. Don’t forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be obtainable to help reduce some of the expense, so don’t forget to contact the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Wetumpka AL. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, some of these additional costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while obtaining their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Wetumpka AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you select provides that option. Finally, find out what the process is for making-up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Training
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more prevalent and may be an excellent alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to those who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online schools can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a respected agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the right option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Wetumpka AL?
If you live near Wetumpka 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.
Wetumpka is a city in and the county seat of Elmore County, Alabama, United States. At the 2010 census the population was 6,528. In the early 21st century, Elmore County, long a rural area, became one of the fastest-growing counties in the state. The city is considered part of the Montgomery Metropolitan Area.
Wetumpka identifies as "The City of Natural Beauty". Among the notable landmarks are the Wetumpka crater and the Jasmine Hill Gardens, with a full-sized replica of the Temple of Hera of Olympia, Greece. Historic downtown Wetumpka developed on both sides of the Coosa River. It was near Fort Toulouse, built by French colonists in 1717, when they had claimed this territory for the king.
The word Wetumpka is derived from the Muscogee language (Creek) phrase we-wau tum-cau. The name Wetumpka is a historic Creek place word meaning "rumbling waters", believed to be a description of the sound of the nearby Coosa River at the rapids of the Devil's Staircase. The roar of the rapids reportedly could be heard for miles before the construction in the 20th century of Walter Bouldin Dam and Jordan Dam, when the river was captured as a reservoir behind the dam.
Select the Right Legal Assistant Degree Program near Wetumpka AL
Choosing the ideal paralegal educational program is an important first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Wetumpka residence. Paralegal academic programs are offered in numerous formats and lengths. Several types of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you choose to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to assess each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the right education you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Wetumpka AL.
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