How to Choose the Right Paralegal Certificate Program near Russellville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Russellville AL and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will get the extensive 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 increasingly more academic alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students start by searching for schools within driving range of their Russellville residences. Of those options, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program ought to be considered also. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess 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 academic choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold comparable job roles and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, 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 Russellville AL attorneys with a diverse array of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but some of their regular tasks might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers 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 complex and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Russellville AL is by earning a certificate, which can involve just six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. After you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your career opportunities, but help establish 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 program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Russellville 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 particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial issues to research as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also obtain 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 obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Russellville AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Russellville AL law firms that you may be interested 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 exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also provide a means for students to start establishing contacts within the Russellville AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success 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 well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary among states, it might be beneficial to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the area where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to first look at those schools that are within the Russellville AL area.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be obtainable to help minimize some of the cost, so be sure to check with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is available in Russellville AL. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, some of these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Russellville AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you choose makes available that option. Last, find out what the procedure is for making up missed classes because of work, illness or family obligations.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Training
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more prevalent and may be a good option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to individuals who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the ideal option for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Russellville AL?
If you live near Russellville 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.
Russellville is a city in Franklin County in the U.S. state of Alabama. At the 2010 census, the population of the city was 9,830, up from 8,971 at the 2000 census. The city is the county seat of Franklin County.
After the War of 1812, the U.S. government appropriated money to improve a route from Nashville to New Orleans. It was named Jackson's Military Road after Andrew Jackson, and it passed through what became Russellville. (Present-day Jackson Avenue and Jackson Highway, U.S. Route 43, follow portions of the original road.)
Russellville is named after Major William Russell, an early settler in the area who helped in the construction of Jackson's Military Road. The town grew at this road's intersection with the Gaines Trace.
Accredited Paralegal Schools Russellville AL
Selecting the ideal legal assistant degree program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about Accredited Paralegal Schools. But as we have discussed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Russellville home. Paralegal training programs are made available in many formats and lengths. Various kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you choose to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to assess each program and make your final selection. And with the appropriate training you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Russellville AL.
Other Alabama Locations That May Be Of Interest