How to Select the Right Paralegal Degree Program near Cullman Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Cullman AL and start your journey that will lead to a fulfilling career in legal services. However, it’s essential that you locate the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational choices are becoming available, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students start by looking for schools within driving distance of their Cullman residences. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you must take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be taken into consideration also. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both fill comparable job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Cullman AL lawyers with a wide range of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their daily activities might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting 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 involved and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a paralegal in Cullman AL is by earning a certificate, which can take just six months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more expansive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. When you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to continue and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected certifying agencies 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 school (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Cullman AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important issues to research also, 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 schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Cullman AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent 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 contact a few Cullman AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also present an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Cullman AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary from one state to another, it may be advantageous to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to first consider those colleges that are within the Cullman AL region.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost depending on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be obtainable to help minimize some of the expense, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Cullman AL. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online program, some of these additional expenses, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Cullman AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you enroll in makes available that option. Finally, inquire what the procedure is for making-up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Schools
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more popular and may be a good alternative for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a respected organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the ideal choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Cullman AL?
If you live near Cullman Alabama or perhaps are considering attending classes in that area, following is some interesting and useful information regarding the location of your new school campus.
Cullman is the largest city and county seat of Cullman County, Alabama, United States. It is located along Interstate 65, about 50 miles (80 km) north of Birmingham and about 55 miles (89 km) south of Huntsville. As of the 2010 census it had a population of 14,775, with an estimated population of 15,858 in 2018.
Before European settlement, the area that today includes Cullman was originally in the territory of the Cherokee Nation. The region was traversed by a trail known as the Black Warrior's Path, which led from the Tennessee River near the present location of Florence, Alabama, to a point on the Black Warrior River south of Cullman. This trail figured significantly in Cherokee history, and it featured prominently in the American Indian Wars prior to the establishment of the state of Alabama and the relocation of several American Indian tribes, including the Creek people westward along the Trail of Tears. During the Creek War in 1813, General Andrew Jackson of the U.S. Army dispatched a contingent of troops down the trail, one of which included the frontiersman Davy Crockett.
In the 1820s and the 1830s, two toll roads were built linking the Tennessee Valley to present-day Birmingham. In 1822, Abraham Stout was given a charter by the Alabama Legislature to open and turnpike a road beginning from Gandy's Cove in Morgan County to the ghost town of Baltimore on the Mulberry Fork near Colony. The road passed near present-day Vinemont through Cullman, Good Hope, and down the current Interstate 65 corridor to the Mulberry Fork. The road was later extended to Elyton (Birmingham) in 1827. It then became known as Stout's Road. Mace Thomas Payne Brindley was given a charter in 1833 to turnpike two roads, one running between Blount Springs to Somerville by way of his homestead in present-day Simcoe, and the second road passing west of Hanceville and east of Downtown Cullman to join Stout's Road north of the city. What later became the Brindley Turnpike became an extension of Stout's Road to Decatur. Cullman later became located between the juncture of the two roads, and they predated the corridor of U.S. Route 31.
Paralegal Programs Online Cullman AL
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal studies certificate program is a vital first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about Paralegal Programs Online. But as we have discussed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Cullman residence. Paralegal academic programs are provided in numerous lengths and formats. Several kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including community and junior 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 profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you choose to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to assess each program and make your final selection. And with the ideal education you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Cullman AL.
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