How to Enroll in the Right Paralegal Studies Program near Rainbow City Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Rainbow City AL and start your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. However, it’s essential that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students begin by looking for schools within traveling distance of their Rainbow City homes. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program ought to be considered too. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your selection. But first, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold comparable job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Rainbow City AL attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. 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 firm might help with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their daily tasks can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys 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 involved 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 action. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys 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 perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Rainbow City AL is by earning a certificate, which can involve just 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and can be earned at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue 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 employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can start the process of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Rainbow City AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must learn 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 many potential students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other important aspects to think about also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a respected 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 targets distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Rainbow City 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 programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no previous experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call a few Rainbow City AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the Rainbow City AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws differ among states, it might be a good idea to select a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the community where you choose to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to initially look at those schools that are within the Rainbow City AL region.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help minimize some of the cost, so make sure to talk to the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Rainbow City AL. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, some of these additional costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while receiving their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Rainbow City AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in provides that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making-up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Schools
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more common and may be a good option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to those who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online schools can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal environment, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the right option for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Rainbow City AL?
If you live near Rainbow City 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.
Rainbow City, Alabama
This city was named after U.S. Highway 411, called Rainbow Drive, which runs through the middle of the city. Some of the older citizens say it was named after the US 42nd Infantry Division, known as the "Rainbow Division".
As early as 1818, families from the Carolinas and Georgia began to migrate to the area and homestead land near the Coosa River. Hernando de Soto's troops were the first visitors to the area in 1540, and today a bridge stands where the Pensacola Trading Path crossed the Coosa River. A paved highway now traces the trail that was cut from Nashville to Horseshoe Bend by Andrew Jackson on his way to fight the Creek Native Americans in what is now known as the Battle of Horseshoe Bend.
Originally called "Coosa Bend", the area was later called "Morgan's Cross Road". It was located at the intersection of the Gadsden-Ashville Road and Gilbert's Ferry Road. The land was passed from Edmond Jones to his son Clayton, who never married. When he died, the land passed to his sister, Luvica Morgan, who was also the wife of William Morgan.
Legal Assistant Education Rainbow City AL
Enrolling in the right paralegal degree program is an essential 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 Legal Assistant Education. But as we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Rainbow City residence. Paralegal training programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Several types of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact 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 opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you choose to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to review each program and make your final selection. And with the ideal training you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Rainbow City AL.
Other Alabama Locations That May Be Of Interest