How to Choose the Right Paralegal Training Program near Prattville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Prattville AL and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you locate the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students start by searching for schools within driving range of their Prattville homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be taken into account also. Later on in this post we will cover a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your choice. But first, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic 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 roles and functions, 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 paralegals and legal assistants assist Prattville AL lawyers with a wide variety of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their routine tasks may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be involved and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Prattville AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve just six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. Once you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded certifying organizations 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 school (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Prattville AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important issues to consider also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Prattville AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically available only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no previous work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, 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 contact a few Prattville AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while attending school. They can also provide a means for students to start creating contacts within the Prattville AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Because laws differ from state to state, it may be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduation. In addition, it will be important to develop relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially look at those schools that are within the Prattville AL area.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don’t forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be accessible to help minimize part of the cost, so don’t forget to consult with the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Prattville AL. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Prattville AL, make sure 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. Finally, inquire what the process is for making-up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Training
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more common and can be a good alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to students who keep working while earning a degree. As an added advantage, online classes can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Prattville AL?
If you live near Prattville 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.
Prattville is a city in Autauga and Elmore counties in the State of Alabama. As of the 2010 census, the population of the city is 33,960. Nicknamed "The Fountain City" due to the many artesian wells in the area, Prattville is part of the Montgomery metropolitan statistical area and serves as the county seat of Autauga County.
Prattville was founded in 1839 by industrialist and architect Daniel Pratt. The area was largely inhabited by Native Americans and a few settlers when Pratt, a native of Temple, New Hampshire, first observed the Autauga Creek in the 1830s. He purchased approximately 1,000 acres (4.0 km2) from Joseph May at $21.00 an acre, and set out to build his manufacturing facilities and the town along the banks of Autauga Creek. The location was chosen because the creek could supply power to the cotton gin manufacturing equipment. The town became an industrial center and rapidly grew. In 1868, it was named the county seat for Autauga County.
On February 17, 2008, Prattville was hit by an F3 tornado which destroyed more than 45 homes and businesses and damaged over 700. Twenty-nine people were injured with no fatalities. Preliminary estimates put the damage at $85 million in insured and uninsured damages.
Becoming A Legal Assistant Prattville AL
Choosing the best paralegal degree program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about Becoming A Legal Assistant. But as we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Prattville residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in many lengths and formats. Various kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you choose to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to assess each school and make your final selection. And with the appropriate education you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Prattville AL.
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