How to Find the Right Paralegal Degree Program near Sylacauga Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Sylacauga AL and begin your journey that will result in a fulfilling career in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic choices are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students begin by trying to find schools within traveling distance of their Sylacauga homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school must be taken into consideration too. Later on in this article we will cover a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your decision. But first, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold comparable job roles and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Sylacauga AL attorneys with a wide range of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their regular activities may 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 stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a paralegal in Sylacauga AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may take just 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish 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 an option as well. After you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and earn a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Things to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Sylacauga AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must 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 as well. If you are like many potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other critical aspects to think about 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 ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Sylacauga AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing 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 Sylacauga AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide 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 start creating contacts within the Sylacauga AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it might be a good idea to choose a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. Also, it will be important to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the community where you desire to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to initially consider those colleges that are within the Sylacauga AL area.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential received and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be available to help minimize some of the expense, so don’t forget to contact the school’s financial aid office to find out what is available in Sylacauga AL. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these additional costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while receiving their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Sylacauga AL, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in offers that option. Last, ask what the process is for making up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Training
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more available and may be an excellent option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to those who continue to work while earning a degree. As an added advantage, online programs can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee 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 respected organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the right option for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Sylacauga AL?
If you live near Sylacauga 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.
Sylacauga is known for its fine white marble bedrock. This was discovered shortly after settlers moved into the area and has been quarried ever since. The marble industry was the first recorded industry in the Sylacauga area.
Sylacauga is the site of the first documented case of an object from outer space hitting a person. On November 30, 1954, a 4 kg (9 lb) piece of what became known as the Hodges Meteorite crashed through the roof of an Oak Grove house, bounced off a radio, and badly bruised Mrs. Ann Hodges, who was taking an afternoon nap.
The first historical account of the area comes from de Soto's chroniclers as he marched south along the east bank of the Coosa River in 1540, encountering the town of Talisi at the edges of the Mississippian-era chiefdoms of Coosa and Tuskaloosa. The inhabitants of the Coosa River Valley were later united as the Creek Indians, whose encounters with the Spanish and French had a significant influence on the history of Sylacauga. Events that occurred between these three groups were partly responsible for the settlement of the village of Chalakagay in 1748 near modern Sylacauga by refugee Shawnee Indians led by Peter Chartier, and Chalakagay was later listed in the French territorial records in 1759 as being a town inhabited by 50 Shawnee Indian warriors. Late in the summer of 1836 all of the Indians remaining in Alabama were taken west by the United States government. The name Sy-la-cau-ga is derived from the Indian words Chalaka-ge which mean "The Place of the Chalaka Tribe". The city was first incorporated in 1838 as Syllacoga and again in 1887 as Sylacauga.
ABA Paralegal Programs Online Sylacauga AL
Choosing the right paralegal training school is a crucial first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about ABA Paralegal Programs Online. But as we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Sylacauga home. Paralegal academic programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Various types of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you choose to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to review each program and make your final decision. And with the appropriate education you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Sylacauga AL.
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