How to Enroll in the Right Paralegal Studies Training Program near Alabaster Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Alabaster AL and begin your journey that will result in a fulfilling profession in legal services. However, it’s essential that you find the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students start by looking for schools within commuting distance of their Alabaster residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you need to take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program should be taken into account also. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your choice. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold the same job roles and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Alabaster AL lawyers with a wide range of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their regular activities might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay 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 complicated and rather demanding. 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 paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really 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 number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to start your career as a paralegal in Alabaster AL is by earning a certificate, which may require just six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. After you have obtained 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 can not only help improve your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly regarded 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Alabaster AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other critical aspects to consider as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a highly regarded 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 focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Alabaster AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually available only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few Alabaster AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also present a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the Alabaster AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary from one state to another, it might be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduating. Also, it will be important to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the area where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to first consider those colleges that are within the Alabaster AL region.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don’t forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be available to help offset part of the cost, so be sure to check with the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Alabaster AL. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, some of these additional costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Alabaster AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you choose provides that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making-up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Degrees
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more prevalent and can be a good option for those searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address 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 thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded organization, 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 may be the right choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Alabaster AL?
If you live near Alabaster 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.
Alabaster is a city and southern suburb of Birmingham in Shelby County, Alabama, United States. At the 2010 census, the population was 30,352. According to the 2013 Census Estimates, the city had a population of 31,342. Alabaster is the 16th largest city in Alabama by number of residents.
Alabaster mostly occupies the Cahaba and Opossum Valleys, which are divided by the Pine Ridge that runs north to south. To the east and west, both valleys are flanked by parallel mountain ridges that locally run north to south, but are a part of a larger system of ridges that generally runs north-east to south-west (the tailing ends of the Appalachian foothills). The valleys are drained by small creeks (Buck Creek, Beaverdam Creek) which flow into the Cahaba River.
George L. Scott, Sr., an Alabaster pioneer, owned and operated Alabaster Lime Co. His shipping point was known as “Scott Rock.” Later, housing was built to accommodate some of the employees, and the community acquired its name Alabaster from the "white calcium carbonate mineral." The First Bank of Alabaster opened in 1952, and its president was George L. Scott, Jr., who later became the first mayor of Alabaster. The first attempt in 1952 to incorporate Alabaster failed. In January 1953, the petition was again filed, and on February 23, 1953, Alabaster was officially incorporated with a favorable vote of 79 to 23, and 427 residing inhabitants. In 1955, the Alabaster Water and Gas Board was formed.
Paralegal Schools Alabaster AL
Choosing the best legal assistant degree program is an important 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 Paralegal Schools. But as we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Alabaster home. Paralegal education programs are made available in numerous lengths and formats. Several types of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you choose to obtain 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 ultimate decision. And with the appropriate training you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Alabaster AL.
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